Lately our agency has been working on a couple of Web projects for clients that require Section 508 compliance because they receive federal funding. Without getting into the somewhat complicated details of Section 508 compliance (feel free to read about it here), it basically involves making sure a Web site is accessible to individuals with disabilities as protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. A big part of this requirement often involves making Web sites friendly to screen readers and magnifiers used by the blind.
In addition, we are starting to hear more and more clients inquire about making their Web sites accessible to individuals with disabilities. This has led me to start thinking about the disabled market in the U.S.
First, some definitions. Per the U.S. Census Bureau, â€œthere is no one definition for disability.â€ In fact, the Census Bureau collects disabled population data using four different surveys. However, the Census classifies disability into to two categories: Nonsevere Disability and Severe Disability. For more information on these definitions, see page 2 of the Americans with Disabilities: 2002 report.
So how big is this market? According to the aforementioned Census report
- 51.2 million people (18.1% of the population) had some level of disability and 32.5 million (11.5% of t
he population) had a severe disability
– About 10.7 million people ages 6 and over needed personal assistance with one or more activities of daily living (ADL) or instrumental activities of daily living (IADL)
– Among the population 15 and older, 2.7 million used a wheelchair. Another 9.1 million used an ambulatory aid such as a cane, crutches, or walker.
– Approximately 7.9 million people 15 and older had difficulty seeing words and letters in ordinary newspaper print, including 1.8 million people who reported being unable to see
The next question is whether this is a lucrative market for companies to consider. DiversityInc.com put out an article in 2002 that people with disabilities maintain an aggregate income that exceeds $1 trillion, with $220 billion in discretionary spending power.
To put all of this data in perspective, the disabled market is larger than the 44 million+ Hispanic population that spends $575 billion (according to Synovate's 2004 U.S. Hispanic Market Report).
Lastly, according to a 2000 Harris Interactive report, 40% of people with disabilities are online and spend twice the time logged on than their non-disabled counterparts. If you think about it, Internet technology is probably extremely empowering for the disabled, allowing people with various degrees of disabilities to more easily get news, communicate with others, shop, and consume entertainment.
Clearly, this is a big topic, and an even bigger opportunity. Weâ€™ll be posting more information in the weeks to come.