The case for getting more disabled people online
UK digital champion Martha Lane Fox was a guest on You and Yours this lunchtime discussing the recent finding that 4.25 million disabled adults have never used the internet.
The figure, from the Office of National Statistics, represents over half of the 8.43 Million people not yet on the net in the UK, meaning that disabled people are amongst the most disadvantaged minority groups.
As leader of Race Online 2012, the nation wide initiative to get as many people as possible using the internet in time for next year's Olympic Games, Martha described how and why she hopes web access for disabled people can be improved.
"Firstly it's very important to recognise that there's an enormous benefit for disabled people to be online. Therefore we should work hard to create technologies that are easier to use and to bring the price points down of the technologies that are out there already."
"I'd like to see more championing of the opportunity for technology to transform disabled people's lives, and perhaps some bolder and bigger thinking around how we can solve some of these problems."
Joining her on Radio 4's daily consumer programme was Nigel Lewis, CEO of AbilityNet, the disability and technology charity of which Martha has recently become a patron.
Those 4.25 million disabled people who have never been online represent a sizeable 36.3 percent of all disabled adults. If we look at non-disabled people, we find that it's a much smaller 10.3 percent.
Nigel Lewis explains why he believes disabled people make up such a large proportion of those not yet surfing the web.
"Often it's because it is not accessible to them. Either they can't engage with and use the standard computer out of the box, and so it needs adapting in some way, or the online services, the websites, are not accessible with their adaptive technology."
Commenting on whether the price of technology is a barrier for disabled people, Martha Lane Fox said that by investing in a computer and internet connection, consumers will notice significant financial savings in the long run.
"We know now that if you are online, even from a low income household, you save £200 a year, net, of the computer and internet connection."
"Direct debits, switching energy deals, searching around for deals; you are massively disadvantaged economically now, if you are not online."
At the conclusion of the You and Yours discussion, Martha described the impact that assistive technologies can have on lives.
"There's something wondrous for particularly heavily disabled people, when they suddenly can access a world that perhaps was forbidden before."
Martha became disabled herself due to a serious car accident in 2004.
At a recent event she said:
"I crawled back, from nearly death, by using the internet to keep in touch with family and friends, to buy clothes, to eat food. All the other things you need to do when you walk with a stick, or two sticks or in a wheelchair."
"At the weekend I was with my tetraplegic uncle. He has just got an iPad and, with the one finger he can move, he can now use technology in a completely different way. It still gives me goosebumps to think of how that is changing his life."
You and Yours airs Monday to Friday at noon on Radio 4. Catch up afterwards on the BBC iPlayer.