People with disabilities use mobile devices, too

Does mobile accessibility matter? A survey of people with disabilities found that almost all of them use a mobile device. If you have a disability yourself, please participate in one of two surveys out now that seek to learn more about your mobile use.

I think we web designers know by now that lots of people are going to be using the sites we create on mobile devices. But not everyone knows that lots of these people have a disability. That’s why I was glad to see preliminary results of a survey by the Wireless RERC (Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center) of wireless use by people with disabilities. Their survey of 452 people with a disability found that 92 percent owned or used a wireless device. Here’s the breakdown of those devices:

Smartphones were the most common device owned or used, with a majority of respondents (53%) reporting owning one of these devices. Regular “feature phones” were owned or used by about a third of the respondents (32%). Somewhat fewer respondents (27%) reported using a tablet. … These results generally mirror the rates of ownership and use of wireless devices reported for the general population by the Pew Internet and American Life project, whose research shows that 45 percent of Americans own smartphones, and 25 percent own tablets.

Source: SUNspot – Use of Wireless Devices by People with Disabilities (PDF), January 2013

You can read the full report (only three pages, people) for information on the operating systems of these devices and the survey methodology.

So if you’re wondering, “Can people with disabilities even use a mobile device? And do they?”, the answer is a resounding yes. Mobile accessibility matters. Make your mobile apps and sites accessible. You’ll be helping a lot of people if you do.

If you have a disability of any type, please consider participating in Wireless RERC’s ongoing Survey of User Needs. The Paciello Group is also conducting a separate (and much shorter) Mobile Accessibility Survey. Please help us collect data that will help web and mobile developers make web sites and apps that better meet your needs.

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