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Information Resources Management Association
Advancing the Concepts & Practices of Information Resources Management in Modern Organizations

Designing Web Systems for Adaptive Technology

Designing Web Systems for Adaptive Technology
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Author(s): Stu Westin (University of Rhode Island, USA)
Copyright: 2009
Pages: 7
Source title: Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology, Second Edition
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Mehdi Khosrow-Pour, D.B.A. (Information Resources Management Association, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch169


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For over a decade the term digital divide has been used to refer to discrepancies between various population segments in terms of access to information technologies. The digital divide is in opposition to the ideal of equality of access in which all citizens are afforded uniform access to information and information technology. Discussions on this topic seem to most often focus on such factors as race, income, education, geography, and the like. There is, however, a significant and growing group of “digital have-nots” that is frequently overlooked. This group comprises individuals who have some form of physical, sensory, and or mental disability. While the need for full enfranchisement of this group can be effectively argued on legal as well as ethical grounds, it can be shown to make sound business sense as well. Consider this statistic from the most recent U.S. Census. A startling 21.8% of Americans above the age of 16 have at least one disability that results in a “substantial limitation” of one or more “major life activities.” Examples of such disabilities are vision problems (3.5%), hearing problems (3.3%), difficulty using hands (3.0%), and learning disabilities such as dyslexia (1.4%) (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2000, pp. 62-63). Each of these disabilities carries negative consequences regarding accessibility to Web-based resources. The prevalence of disability increases with age. For example, according to 2005 data, 12.1% of Americans in the age group 16-64 have at least one disability. The percentage jumps to 40.5% when considering those of age 65 and above (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2006, Table S1801). Much of this dramatic increase in occurrence is due to declining vision, hearing, and dexterity (Bergel, Chadwick-Dias, & Tullis, 2005; Fox, 2004; Loiacono, McCoy, & Chin, 2005; Steinmetz, 2006). The youngest American baby boomers are now in their forties. The average age of the population of the U.S. and of most other developed nations will increase substantially over the next few decades, as will the concomitant prevalence of physical disability (Bergel et al., 2005). This demographic shift is due partly to the post World War II “population bubble,” but it is also due to the tremendous increase in life expectancy in modern times (an increase of 30 years since 1900, according to U.S. Administration on Aging statistics) (Mosner & Spiezle, 2003). The segment of the American population comprising individuals of age 50 and above will grow from the current 38% to 47% by the end of the next decade (Moos, 2005). Also growing dramatically is the average age of the workforce. Workers are delaying retirement for numerous reasons, while the rate at which younger workers enter the workforce is declining (Mosner & Spiezle, 2003). In an increasingly Web-oriented information-based economy, worker productivity hinges on accessibility to Web-based systems. This issue demands more attention as the age of the workforce (read prevalence of physiological impairments among workers) increases. This article considers some of the issues surrounding accessibility to Web systems and services by individuals with imperfect abilities. It is argued that, beyond the moral and legal reasons for accommodating this group, there are numerous advantages for business and commerce that can be achieved.

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