Improving Access to Digital Media for Sensory Impaired Users in Wales

The world we live in has been increasingly digitalised, showing potentials in benefiting people in many aspects of social life. Recognising that digital exclusion and digital skill gaps could create hindrance for disabled community, we aim to gain a better understanding of the usage of technologies by sight-impaired users and investigate the possible solutions to their barriers to enjoying the benefits that come from using digital services.

Lloyds Bank UK Consumer Digital Index 2021 shows that Wales has seen lower digital enablement comparing to other regions in the UK. In the year 2020, 13% of the Welsh population have not used the Internet in the last three months, which shows a remarkably high rate within the context of COVID-19 lockdowns. However, the same report also reveals that when online, Welsh citizens are confident digital users, only lagging behind London in proportion. These data demonstrate that comparing to other regions in the UK, digital divides affect Wales in particular.

Digitally excluded people tend to be associated with demographic attributes such as age, disability, economic status, education, etc. According to Digital Communities Wales, digital exclusion tends to affect those aged over 65, have disabilities or long-term health conditions, have lower education attainment, are from low socio-economic status, live in rural areas, speak Welsh as their first language, or are socially isolated and/or homeless. It is often less noted that these demographic attributes could be co-related. Certain disabilities are often age-related, and a reduced ability (e.g., a sight impairment) could affect employment and the socio-economic status of an individual or family.

This research provides a summary of the findings from qualitative research into the digital media usage of sensory impaired people in Wales. Three focus groups were run between 14–22 May 2018 as part of a research project based at Swansea University, funded by the Challenging Human Environments and Research Impact for a Sustainable and Healthy Digital Economy Centre (CHERISH-DE). The research was achieved with the cooperation of the Welsh arm of the charity Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and their network of members.
By conducting empirical research with sight-impaired users, we aim to provide a first-hand account of the user experience to inform digital inclusivity policy. Firstly, we assess support networks provided to sight-impaired users - in particular, local support group and Welsh government funded projects including digital communities. Secondly, we set to investigate barriers faced by sight impaired users to the full use of accessible features across devices, software and applications. Finally, through experimental interactions with Amazon Alexa and Google Duplex, we aim to develop consumer-led recommendations to improve inclusive technology.

For the full report, please click here


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