Disabled consumers’ access and use of communications services

29 September 2015

Nearly 12 million people in the UK have a limiting long-term illness, impairment or disability. Under the Communications Act 2003 Ofcom has a specific duty to have regard to the interests of disabled consumers. In order to meet these responsibilities and to respond to stakeholder requests for better information on the experiences of disabled consumers, we have worked with the British Population Survey (BPS) to produce these two reports, in 2013 and in 2015. They provide a robust analysis of disabled consumers' household access to, and use of, communications services across Great Britain.

Disabled consumers’ ownership of communications services: 2013 report

Nearly twelve million (11.9 million) people in the UK have a limiting long-term illness, impairment or disability . Under the Communications Act 2003 Ofcom has a specific duty to have regard to the interests of disabled consumers. In order to meet these responsibilities and to respond to stakeholder requests for better information on the experiences of disabled consumers, we worked with the British Population Survey (BPS) to produce this report. It provides Ofcom's most robust analysis yet of disabled consumers' household ownership of, and access to, communications services, across Great Britain.

Ofcom's previous quantitative analysis (published as part of the Consumer Experience report) was caveated due to small sample sizes. While combining the results from people with different types of impairment increases the sample sizes, this approach masks any differences between disability groups, and as such, more in-depth research was desirable.

By working with the BPS we have achieved a robust sample of disabled consumers (4,095 people aged 15 or over). This has meant that, for the first time, we are able to publish quantitative analysis comparing household ownership and use of communications services among people with different types of impairment or disability. The top-line findings were published in Ofcom's Consumer Experience of 2012 report' .

This report provides a detailed analysis among people with hearing, visual, mobility and multiple impairments, making comparisons by type of disability and by demographic group. It draws out differences between disability groups and makes comparisons with non-disabled consumers.

Previously, this type of analysis has been limited by the fact that observed differences between groups of disabled consumers can be explained by the substantial demographic differences between the groups. The analysis in this report is unique in that it compares different age and social groups on a like-for-like basis. The findings suggest that demographic differences offer only a partial explanation for the differing levels of communications service take-up. Other factors, perhaps related to the disability itself, appear to be affecting ownership and use of key communications services, or compounding the effects of age and socio-economic group among people with disabilities.

The findings from this report will help inform all areas of Ofcom's work relating to the needs of disabled consumers. It complements our existing research which looks more broadly at service affordability and media literacy in the UK population. The results will allow us more accurately to identify and prioritise potential areas of concern for Ofcom and/or other stakeholders.

Disabled consumers' ownership of communications devices: 2013 report (PDF, 529.7 KB)
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Disabled consumers' use of communications services: 2015 report

According to the Family Resources Survey 2013/14, published in June 2015, almost 12 million (11.9 million) consumers in the UK, by 2013/14, had a limiting long-term illness, impairment or disability. This figure has increased from 10.5 million in 2003/04, although the estimated percentage of the population has remained relatively constant over time (at around 19%) as a result of the increasing overall population. Under the Communications Act 2003, Ofcom has a specific duty to have regard to the needs of persons with disabilities. In order to meet these responsibilities and to respond to stakeholder requests for better information on the experiences of disabled consumers, we worked with the British Population Survey (BPS) to produce this report. It provides Ofcom's most robust analysis yet of disabled consumers' household access to, personal use of, and limitations in use of, communications services across Great Britain.

By working with the BPS we achieved a robust sample of disabled consumers (4,004 consumers aged 15 or over). This has meant that, for the second time, we have been able to publish quantitative analysis comparing household ownership/access to and use of communications services among consumers with different types of impairment or disability. The 2012 findings were published in September 2013. As in 2012, the 2014 top-line findings were published in Ofcom's annual Consumer Experience report.

This 2015 report provides a detailed analysis among consumers with hearing, visual, mobility or multiple impairments or learning disabilities, making comparisons by type of disability and by demographic group. It draws out differences between disability groups and makes comparisons with non-disabled consumers. Where possible, comparisons have been made with the 2012 data.

Previously, this type of analysis has been limited by the fact that observed differences between groups of disabled consumers can be explained by the substantial demographic differences between the groups. The analysis in this report is unique in that it compares age and social groups on a like-for-like basis. The findings suggest that demographic differences offer only a partial explanation for the differing levels of communications service take-up. Other factors, including the disability itself, are affecting access and use of key communications services, or compounding the effects of age and socio-economic group among consumers with disabilities.

The findings from this report will help inform all areas of Ofcom's work relating to the needs of disabled consumers. It complements our existing research, which looks more broadly at service affordability and media literacy in the UK population. The results will allow us more accurately to identify and prioritise potential areas of concern for Ofcom and/or other stakeholders.

Related documents

Disabled consumers' use of communications services: 2015 report (PDF, 1.5 MB)

Briefing Sheet - Consumers with a learning disability (Easy Read format) (PDF, 851.0 KB)

Briefing Sheet - Consumers with a learning disability (PDF, 223.6 KB)

Briefing Sheet - Hearing Impaired Consumers (PDF, 221.1 KB)

Briefing Sheet - Mobility Impaired Consumers (PDF, 221.4 KB)

Briefing Sheet - Multiple Impaired Consumers (PDF, 221.9 KB)

Briefing Sheet - Visually Impaired Consumers (PDF, 221.8 KB)

Ofcom Disability Analysis 2014 - Data Tables (PDF, 2.3 MB)