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Applying a critical approach to investigate barriers to digital inclusion and online social networking among young people with disabilities

journal contribution
posted on 2018-10-08, 00:00 authored by L Newman, K Browne-Yung, P Raghavendra, Denise WoodDenise Wood, E Grace
Despite the seeming ubiquity of young people's Internet use, there are still many for whom access to the Internet and online social networking remains inequitable and patterned by disadvantage. The connection between information technology and young people with disabilities is particularly under-researched. This article contributes to the field of critical information systems research by exposing significant barriers and facilitators to Internet accessibility for young people with disabilities. It uses Bourdieu's critical theory to explore how the unequal distribution of resources shapes processes of digital inclusion for young people with disabilities. It highlights access needs and experiences that are both disability and non-disability related. The article draws on interviews in South Australia with 18 young people aged 10–18 years with a physical disability (such as cerebral palsy) or acquired brain injury and with 17 of their family members. Interviews evaluated participants' and parents' reflections on the benefits of a home-based, goal-oriented intervention to increase the young person's Internet use for social participation purposes. The Bourdieuian analysis demonstrated how varying levels of accrued individual and family offline capital resources are related to digital/online resources and disability-specific online resources. This revealed how unequal resources of capital can influence technology use and hence digital inclusion for young people with disabilities. Our study demonstrates that young people with particular types of disabilities require intensive, personalised and long-term support from within and beyond the family to ‘get online’. We conclude that Internet studies need to more frequently adopt critical approaches to investigate the needs of users and barriers to information technology use within sub-groups, such as young people with disabilities. © 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. © 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd








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Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, UK

Peer Reviewed

  • Yes

Open Access

  • No

Author Research Institute

  • Centre for Regional Advancement of Learning, Equity, Access and Participation (LEAP)

Era Eligible

  • Yes


Information Systems Journal