Effect of digital divide on people with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced social inequality in marginalized groups. People with disabilities (PWD) are particularly restricted in their activities and lives due to the pandemic and experiencing more difficulties than the general population. Objective: This study aims to explore the extent of the digital divide between PWD and people without disabilities (PWOD) during the COVID-19 pandemic in South Korea. Methods: This study relied on the cross-sectional secondary data from the 2020 Digital Divide Survey conducted in Korea. We performed a series of bivariate analyses on the data of 5575 PWOD and 1781 PWD (18–69 years old) to compare Internet usage and various types of digital services related to the pandemic. Results: We identified significant differences between PWOD and PWD in their Internet usage change during the pandemic. A higher number of PWD reported that their Internet usage with both computers and mobile devices remained similar to the pre-pandemic period while that of PWOD reported that their Internet usage via the same has increased. Significant gaps were found in the usage change of the five digital services with the largest gap in that of social networking services between PWOD and PWD. Further, PWOD were likelier to be aware of, utilize, and perceive the usefulness of digital services during the COVID-19 pandemic including application, information, delivery, and subscription services. Conclusion: To ensure better post-pandemic outcomes for marginalized groups including PWD, the governments and authority agencies must facilitate digital access and services with appropriate accommodations needed by those populations.

Publication Title

Disability and Health Journal