Needs & Numbers


Photo of a person using a laptop surrounded by books and reference material.

Understanding a problem is a first and critical step to solving it. Without a solid set of facts and statistics about disability and inaccessibility, we cannot hope to create solutions that are important, effective, and efficient.  Although there are some useful statistics available, we are missing information that would aid designers, accessibility program managers, policymakers, marketers, advocates, and others.

For example, a justifiably large fraction of web accessibility work is dedicated to making web content compatible with screen readers and screen magnifiers. But we know very little about the universe of users of these assistive technologies (AT).

  • How many users are there?
  • What proportion of the potential market is that?
  • What distinguishes users from non-users?
  • What do non-users do instead for information and communication?
  • Why do potential users reject screen readers or magnifiers?

All of these questions need answers so that we can understand how to reach the large number of people who do not use assistive technology. With the answers we might be able to increase the number of successful AT users; we might also learn how new AT designs might appeal to current non-users. To answer these questions, we need to go beyond conventional disability statistics in 2 ways:

  1. We need finer grained disability statistics than we currently get from the 6 questions most surveys ask. For example, the vision question asks if respondents have no difficulty, some difficulty, a lot of difficulty, or are unable to see, even if wearing glasses. The 6 questions were carefully designed for large surveys such as a national census that cannot go into more detail than that. However, designers need to know more about the degrees and types of vision loss and their distribution across the population.
  2. We need to understand how people with disabilities respond to their functional limitations -- what do they do, what do they buy, what activities do they avoid, what activities do they substitute. This is mostly conventional market research.


The RtF Needs & Numbers Program will focus on gathering, sharing, and fostering the development of better information on the full range of problems faced by people with disability, literacy or aging related barriers to ICT use, and to quantifying the gaps.  

The primary objectives of this effort will be:

  • To fully profile the barriers faced by these disadvantaged consumers in using ICT
  • To extract quantified information about those barriers from existing disability statistics, and analyze and share this information
  • To advocate for additional focused statistics gathering that is relevant to the consumer view of disability
  • To extract consumer market research information from all available sources, and analyze and share this information
  • To advocate for additional consumer market intelligence about disabled consumers, and to support market researchers interested in pursuing this

The results will be used both to better guide RtF's efforts, and as a resource for others:

  • Mainstream ICT developers and marketers
  • AT developers and companies
  • Policymakers
  • Consumer advocacy organizations

We plan on building an open web-based resource that outlines the important questions, delivers some quantitative answers, and points to more research that needs to be done.

You can help by passing on information about statistics, market research, or needs analyses that you know of in this area. Or just tell us you're interested, and we'll add you to the Needs & Numbers Group.