People with Disabilities Report Increased Use of Texting

Text messaging is gaining favor among people with disabilities who use wireless devices, according to a survey conducted by the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) for Wireless Technologies at Shepherd Center and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The survey results also showed that those "texters" are finding voice communications less important.

"The massive growth of text messaging in the general consumer market in the United States and globally is reflected in the evolving needs and wants identified by our survey respondents," said John Morris, a Shepherd Center researcher. The RERC's Survey of User Needs questioned more than 1,500 people with disabilities.

The survey, which is ongoing, is funded by the U.S. Department of Education's National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR).

The 2008 survey showed that 52 percent of people with disabilities described text messaging as an important wireless communications function; that's a 14-percent increase from 2007's survey results.

Nearly 70 percent of respondents said security was an important component of wireless technologies, which the RERC said indicates "that people with disabilities still overwhelmingly rely on their wireless devices as a way to mitigate the perceived risks of going out in public or just being alone."

The survey also found that about 85 percent of respondents use wireless devices, a figure similar to wireless device usage in the general United States population.

A high number of respondents, the RERC reported, "emphasized the increased opportunities for social interaction provided by wireless communications," saying, for instance, that one respondent commented, "It includes me in the world community."

This article originally appeared in the June 2009 issue of Mobility Management.

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at

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