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Internet Access Limited For Minorities, Disabled

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: The following article is re-printed from the San Jose Mercury News, October 30, 2000.

For the first time, the U.S. Department of Commerce computer use survey examined computer and Internet access for disabled Americans, and learned that they are only half as likely to have access to the Internet as those without a disability.

And Internet access for blacks and Hispanics, though up overall, lags far behind their white and Asian counterparts in America.

Computer and Internet usage is up for most Americans, regardless of their race, education or income, according to the fourth national survey of digital haves and have-nots released this month.

More rural households have Internet access--up 75 percent from 1998.Blacks and Hispanics have shown gains, and the disparity in usage between men and women has largely disappeared.

Americans 50 years and older--while still less likely than their younger counterparts to use the Internet--experienced the highest rate of growth in Internet usage of all age groups.

Overall, the survey found that in August 2000, just over half of all households had computers, up from 42.1 percent in December 1998.

And 41.5 percent of all homes had Internet access, up from 26.2 percent in the 1998 survey. The report said 116.5 million Americans have some kind of Net access.

The report, "Falling Through the Net: Toward Digital Inclusion," offered other insights, including:

Americans 50 years of age and older are not only among the least likely to be Internet users, the use rate for this group was only 29.6 percent in 2000. However, people in this group were almost three times as likely to be Internet users if they worked.

Even with high-speed Internet services, a relatively new technology used by only 10.7 percent of online households, there are disparities. Rural areas, for example, lag behind central cities and urban areas in broadband penetration, with 7.3 percent of homes equipped with high-speed access, compared with 12.2 percent for cities.

The report said that 28.4 percent of disabled people have some kind of Internet access, half the rate of those without a disability. People who have impaired vision and problems using their hands have even lower rates of access than others.