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The Potential Need for Accessible Technology

Below are the results from a two-part study Microsoft commissioned and Forrester Research conducted to learn about the potential need for accessible technology. The first report from that study, entitled The Wide Range of Abilities and Its Impact On Computer Technology, revealed surprising results: 57% of working-age adults in the United States are likely to benefit from the use of accessible technology.

A new report entitled Accessible Technology in Computing-Examining Awareness, Use, and Future Potential has just been completed by Forrester and published. This latest report presents findings about the use of computers among individuals with difficulties and impairments. It also discusses factors that influence the use of computers and accessible technology and includes data about the current awareness and use of accessible technology.

The report will help us better understand the role that accessible technology plays in our lives. The concern is that the people who need accessible technology the most are the least likely to know about it and use it. Specifically, consider the following findings included in this report:


1. Accessible technology is currently under utilized - there is widespread awareness but only modest use of accessible technology.

  • 44% of computer users with mild or severe difficulties/impairment use accessible technology however 57% can benefit.
  • Only 24% of computer users with severe difficulties/impairments are using the assistive technology products they need to make computing effective.
  • 35% of computer users with severe difficulties/impairments reported they didn't know if there were additional assistive technology that would enhance their use of computers.
  • 33% of computer users rely on friends and family to help them find the assistive technology products they need.
  • Computer users with severe difficulties/impairments report lower computer confidence and experience - these are barriers to finding and using assistive technology products.

2. Accessible technology is too hard to find - the use of accessible technology depends far too greatly on an individual seeking it out or discovering it on their own.

  • Many computer users who need accessible technology lack the computer experience and confidence to find the accessible technology they need.
  • Because built-in accessibility options and utilities are often associated with and labeled for people with disabilities, many people with mild difficulties and impairments who could be benefiting from them are not using them.

3. The IT industry needs to focus on presenting accessibility options and assistive technology products as part of a computer's functionality (rather than just as an aid for people with disabilities). Integrating and presenting accessibility differently will help a wider range of computer users find options they can benefit from.

  • Computer users look for technology that makes their computers easier to use, not for accessibility solutions based on types of impairments or disabilities.

Both reports and more information about the study are published at http://www.microsoft.com/enable/research/. If you would like to see this study in context of other demographic issues such as the aging workforce, please visit http://www.microsoft.com/enable/aging/