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What are the barriers to the Internet for people with disabilities?

A man in a wheelchair uses a screen.

The ADA was enacted in 1990, back when the Internet as we know it today didn't exist. It was designed to give people access to the places they could potentially go. But is the Internet a place? That's an issue that certainly wasn't discussed then and hasn't gotten much clarification since. Dr. Cyndi Rowland of the Center for Persons with Disabilities joins us and asks if the Internet isn't a place but people still "go" there, how do we accommodate those with disabilities?

A new survey by the Pew Internet Project has some interesting numbers on this issue:

- 2 percent of American adults say they have a disability or illness that makes it harder or impossible for them to use the Internet.

- 54 percent of adults living with a disability use the Internet, compared with 81 percent of adults who report none of the disabilities listed in the survey.

- 41 percent of adults living with a disability have broadband at home, compared with 69 percent of those without a disability.

We pick through the report with Susannah Fox, associate director of the Pew Internet Project.

It's notable that so few people cite a disability as a reason for not getting online but dramatically fewer people with disabilities have broadband or even use the Internet at all.

Tom Foley of the World Institute on Disability says it comes down to economics. When a piece of adaptive equipment to make the web accessible costs up to several thousand dollars and you're living on a fixed income as many people with disabilities are, the internet becomes less of a priority.

Also in this program, we hear about a dog backpack that lets the owner control the dog from far away. Because nothing could go wrong in that scenario.

About the author

John Moe is the host of Marketplace Tech Report, where he provides an insightful overview of the latest tech news.

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