Is There a Digital Divide in App Land?


By MATP Staff Member M. Catherine McAdam

If you do a Google search you’ll find several commentaries on how the smart phone is bridging the digital divide, and then a few questioning the reality of this generalized statement.

Pew research and disability continues to show a significant divide.

  • Pew Internet Video
  • Pew Internet and Disability

It still holds true that there are income, racial, age, rural, and disability barriers. An excellent blog article on using apps for memory brought this issue to mind, as it discussed options for using apps without being online.  The program also had a rental program for unlocked “old” phones that still allow for use of apps that don’t require an online connection.

  • Apps that do not need Wi-Fi

I strongly believe that we owe it to all to show the possibility of technology even if they currently don’t have an online option. The Pew research points out a primary reason for this.  Many who are not currently online at home or via a cell connection are not because they don’t see the relevance and/or know they will need help to learn to use the technology.  Our demonstration programs show the possibility, hope and relevance of technology.

So, we want to keep in mind what can be used without WIFI while opening the door for the future! There are good examples of apps that do not require Wi-Fi, one most recent for blind/ visually impaired, or those with learning disabilities, is the KNFB Mobile APP. Although priced at $100, even with the cost of an iPod or iPhone it is not as costly as computer based software or standalone scanning machines and is worth exploring.

Dictation apps, some free, have also proven quite useful, and although they may require Wi-Fi, they may prove to be a valuable option. And remember libraries, schools, coffee shops friends and families, often have Wi-Fi,  and now you may choose to bring your own device with apps along – if you have one.

Certainly the new world of “App Land” is helpful for people who have disabilities. These two  Success stories from our demonstration projects show how apps can help:

  • Age 91+ iPad = Independence
  • A whole new world

Can you suggest an app that doesn’t require Wi-Fi for consideration?

What do you think of having a smartphone rental program available for people with disabilities?


What do you think? Let us know!