An investigation into the influence of information behaviour and use of ICT on the quality of life with people with disabilities

Master Thesis


Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title
Link to Journal
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

University of Cape Town

People with disabilities are frequently denied access to information and information technologies due to their impairments. Whereas physical impairment is a predominant, economic barriers are also a constraint for people with disabilities. The disability-poverty link hinders knowledge building resulting in a lack of information for everyday life leading to further economic poverty. Nevertheless, a paradox is observed whereby people with disabilities report a higher quality of life (QOL) than anticipated. This research explores the disability paradox by taking a hypothetico-deductive approach to investigate the influence of information behaviour on the quality of life of people with disabilities and the role that information and communication technology (ICT) contributes. Although the majority of participants had regular access to ICT no influence on quality of life was observed for technology. Likewise, information behaviour was not observed to influence quality of life. However, the type of information needed was associated with quality of life while associations were revealed between information behaviour, ICT, and type of information needed. Six primary type of information needs - Social Support; Independence; Finances and Employment; Attitude; Mobility; and Technology - were observed to exhibit a complex relationship with disability both influencing and being influenced by quality of life. An area of concern was identified in the observation of low demand for ethical information which is arguably one of the most needed areas both in ICT and for people with disabilities today. These findings are supported by literature which has failed to conclusively prove direct associations between ICT and QOL. Nonetheless, ICT access has been associated with information behaviour although verbal and media information sources are ranked highly. In this study, verbal communication was observed to be preferred for information sharing supporting findings that offline communication is a greater predictor of quality of life than online communication. Whilst respondents sought more information on technology they encounter barriers including economic limitations, inaccessibility of Internet content and technology, lack of training, fear of technology, and lack of knowledge of technology offerings. Furthermore, a negative perception of dependency on the technology was identified. This study supports prior observations that people with disabilities manifest higher quality of life than expected. While technology is not directly linked to improved quality of life it was shown to support factors that improve quality of life. For people with disabilities this includes assistive technologies and ICT for information gathering and sharing, however the very disability that the technology seeks to overcome may also be a barrier to its use.

Includes bibliographical references.