A more nuanced picture of the Swedish population’s internet use is needed

2/1/2018 1

It is important to conduct surveys about the internet and associated technologies using selection methods that ensure people with various disabilities and other difficulties are represented – and that questions and response alternatives are adapted to the abilities of these groups. If not, these people’s circumstances and ability to use the internet and digital technology is not revealed sufficiently. There is a risk that the picture of digital exclusion will not be a fair representation and that the measures taken will not be the most effective. This is shown in a new survey conducted by Begripsam that was financed by the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS) in collaboration with the Swedish Consumer Agency.

Thanks to several established surveys, we have a good idea of what Swedish people are doing on the internet, what devices they use and what potential difficulties there are. These investigations are based on samples of the Swedish population, but as these samples are relatively small, the probability of finding people with specific disabilities is low. If these groups are not represented, the picture of the situation for people with certain disabilities will not be a fair representation and there is a risk of digital exclusion not being correctly described, which can in the long-term prevent the correct measures being put in place.

Shadow survey with greater representation of people with disabilities

The survey “Svenskarna med funktionsnedsättning och internet” (Swedes with Disabilities and the Internet) is therefore conducted as a “shadow survey”. This has measured the same things that have been investigated in other surveys but the methods used have focussed on finding people with various disabilities. The purpose of this it to complement, deepen and clarify the picture of internet use among people with disabilities.

The results show a more nuanced picture of internet use

The results of this survey differ from the “shadowed surveys” in a number of areas and show a more nuanced picture of how people with disabilities experience the use of the internet. It also shows great differences between people with different disabilities. This may mean that there is a great risk involved in making assumptions based on results where people with different disabilities have been bunched together in groups that are too large. One example is that severely visually impaired and blind people are often described as “visually impaired”, but these groups often have completely different results.

Both worrying and pleasing results Stefan Johansson, who is in charge of conducting the survey finds it worrying that certain groups have a high level of digital exclusion according to the results of the survey. For example, this applies to people with intellectual disabilities, language impairments and aphasia. Another area where the results indicate problems is the effect that education and work has. “The survey shows that the further away from education or the regular labour market a person is, the worse access they have to the digital resources and digital knowledge that are perhaps actually a prerequisite for obtaining a job or starting to study”, says Stefan Johansson. A more pleasing view is that many people with disabilities seem to appreciate and use the blog as a means by which to express themselves. Eight per cent of the Swedish population writes a blog, but we can see in our data several groups that are more active bloggers.

Increased focus for PTS on the dissemination of problems and solutions PTS is of the opinion that the results of this survey indicate the importance of conducting more surveys that use sampling methods that ensure people with various disabilities, diagnoses and difficulties are represented and that the manner in which questions are asked and the response alternatives are constructed takes into consideration different people’s abilities and prerequisites.
“Disseminating knowledge, problem insights and tangible suggestions for solutions connected to accessibility and digital inclusion is something PTS will be focussing on even more in future in our work to ensure that important services within the field of electronic communication and mail are accessible to people with disabilities”, says Sara Andersson, Director of Connected Society Department at PTS.

For more information:
Malin Wahlquist Section for Inclusive IT and Telephony, PTS email: malin.wahlquist@pts.se telephone: +46 (0)8-678 56 57
PTS press office, telephone +46 (0)8-678 55 55

Background of the survey

PTS has, together with the Swedish Consumer Agency, financed a survey called “Svenskarna med funktionsnedsättning och internet” (Swedes with Disabilities and the Internet). The survey was initiated and conducted by Begripsam, a company and association consisting of experienced researchers, experts and project managers with knowledge of disability issues. KTH Royal Institute of Technology has provided scientific support and a number of liaison officers in associations and organisations have contributed with great voluntary commitment.

PTS is working to improve the general level of accessibility within electronic communication and mail in the long-term. PTS is working to ensure we live in a society where all information and communication technology is inclusive and can be used by everybody, regardless of their functional ability. A central point of departure in this work is to start with the needs of the target groups and identify deficiencies in accessibility within the area covered by PTS.