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Demographics

From: Gretchen Lowerison <gretchen@hwg.org>
Date: Mon, 23 Oct 2000 11:03:53 -0400
Message-Id: <3.0.5.32.20001023110353.00963100@localhost>
To: EOWG <w3c-wai-eo@w3.org>
American Demographics, September 2000 

Top Lines

The Internet's Next Niche

By Alison Stein Wellner

Online marketers should pay attention to the growing market of 
disabled adults. 

Looking for the next hot market on the Internet? Look no further than 
the substantial number of consumers with disabilities. According to 
the U.S. Census Bureau, 21 percent of Americans currently have a 
disability. That's 54 million consumers. Of these, more than 4 in 10 
are online, a Harris Poll reveals. Although that's a smaller share 
than the non-disabled population, Web surfers with a disability spend 
more time logged on and report more positive feelings about the 
Internet than non-disabled Web surfers. 

But despite its size, many marketers have ignored this consumer 
segment, notes Humphrey Taylor, chairman of the Harris Poll. It could 
be that consumers with disabilities-- defined by Harris as anyone 
with a health problem, disability, or handicap that impedes him or 
her from participating fully in work, school, or housework--seem like 
difficult targets because they're extremely diverse in age, 
ethnicity, and physical condition. Marketers may have also shied away 
from the disabled market because many people with disabilities have 
lower incomes. "People with disabilities are not a fat, rich, 
affluent market," agrees Taylor. "But, when you look at their total 
spending, it runs into the hundreds of millions of dollars." 
According to 1995 census data--the most current available--persons 
with disabilities aged 15 and older had a total annual discretionary 
income of $175 billion. 

It's a market that's caught the attention of a few savvy e-marketers. 
The front runners include WeMedia.com, a New York-based e-commerce 
site that will Webcast the 2000 Paralympic Games from Sydney, 
Australia this fall, and CanDo.com, a content and e-commerce site in 
Mountain View, California. 

These market leaders have discovered that their target group is 
substantially different from non-disabled Web surfers. First: They 
spend more time logged on. On average, adults with disabilities spend 
twice as much time on the Internet each week--20 hours--than their 
non-disabled counterparts, according to Harris Researchers. And, that 
time is all about surfing. Checking e-mail didn't count for this 
survey. 

Online time is time well spent, say adults with disabilities. Forty-
eight percent say that the Internet has significantly improved the 
quality of their lives, compared with 27 percent of adults without 
disabilities. This difference is especially striking for older 
consumers. Fifty-six percent of disabled adults aged 65 and older say 
that the Internet had substantially improved their lives, compared 
with just 6 percent of non-disabled older adults. 

Marketers should learn to pay attention to this consumer segment 
because the number of people with disabilities in the United States 
is on the rise, says Taylor. "Far from the wonders of modern medicine 
reducing the number of people with disabilities, modern medicine is 
increasing it. People who would have previously died, now survive. 
People who are born with disabilities are also living much longer," 
he adds. And since the likelihood of disability increases with age, 
the aging of the Baby Boom generation means that the number of people 
with disabilities may swell to record numbers in the coming years. 

In fact, the buzz about the disabled market is likely to become a 
roar when the results of Census 2000 are released, Taylor says. In 
its most recent count, the U.S. Census Bureau widened the definition 
of disability on its questionnaires. This means that a raw comparison 
between the number of people with disabilities over the last 10 years 
will show a dramatic spike. "That will mostly be a method effect, not a real 
increase," cautions Taylor. But it will call attention to a market 
that is experiencing real growth, and that deserves real attention. 

For more information about the Harris Poll, contact Harris 
Interactive at www.harrisinteractive.com. 
Received on Monday, 23 October 2000 11:07:21 GMT

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