A new report released by Women with Disabilities Victoria, in conjunction with the Self Advocacy Resource Unit (SARU), reveals a disturbing level of disadvantage faced by women with disabilities in accessing information and communication technologies (ICT). In an age where delivery of information, communication and services are becoming increasingly digital, those without access are experiencing new forms of disadvantage and being further socially and economically excluded.
Report author, Chris Jennings, writes ‘we are fast approaching a time when it is no longer an issue of personal choice — those without access to the internet will be seriously disadvantaged by society’s increasing use and dependence on it’.
‘Computer interfaces are used in many areas of everyday life, from banking machines to ticket dispensers. The internet is increasingly a channel for conveying information about health, transport, education and many government services. Major employers rely on online application systems for recruitment (WHO & the World Bank, 2011)’.
The report draws on research and consultation with women with disabilities, particularly those who are socially isolated. A series of workshops were held by Project Worker, Chris Jennings, to discuss ICT issues with women with disabilities.
The women participating were enthusiastic about the opportunities the project provided to learn about and use information technology. Women who might traditionally might be perceived as less able to use IT demonstrated their skill in navigating computers and different software programs.
The intersection of gender inequality and disability presents a situation of multiple disadvantage. The report notes that women with disabilities too often face the compounding effects of poverty, lack of education and employment, fear of exploitation and gender stereotypes. These multiple layers of disadvantage create barriers to accessing ICT that are extreme. For example, the high incidence of unemployment amongst women with disabilities further denies them exposure to and familiarity with ICT otherwise afforded those in the workforce and at the same time limits the financial resources they need to buy their own computers and technical support.
The report highlights that “When looking at labour force participation, women with disabilities are particularly affected, with a participation rate of 49% - well below the 60% participation rate of males with disabilities and the 77% participation rate of females without disabilities (ABS 2009).”
The Report was funded by the Victorian Women’s Trust. It recommends government, ICT companies, education facilities and disability services have a responsibility to address women’s lack of access to ICT.
This Report is available through the Women with Disabilities Victoria website in three versions – PDF, Word and Easy English:
• 'Your Say, Your Rights': Women with disabilities and Information Communication Technology (ICT) PDF (1MB)
• 'Your Say, Your Rights': Women with disabilities and Information Communication Technology (ICT) Word (2.2MB)
• 'Your Say, Your Rights': Women with disabilities and Information Communication Technology (ICT) Easy English (PDF | 934KB)