Internet access from home for racial/ethnic groups is as follows: Asian Americans/ Pacific Islanders, 56 percent; whites, 44 percent; African-Americans, 24 percent; and Hispanics, 24 percent (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2001). Cost is the greatest deterrent to at-home access by African-Americans and Hispanics (Cultural Access Group, 2001).
People with mental or physical disabilities (such as blindness, deafness, or difficulty walking, typing, or leaving home) are less likely than those without disabilities to use computers or the Internet (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2002). New government regulations that require all government Web sites to be configured to enhance access could make a significant difference.
At least 50 million Americans (20 percent) are estimated to face one or more content-related barriers to the benefits offered by the Internet. These barriers include lack of local information, literacy barriers, language barriers, and lack of cultural suitability (The Children’s Partnership, 2000).
A recent report by the Cultural Access Group (2001) highlighted some important ethnic differences in attitudes toward Internet use. For example, more than 60 percent of Hispanics and African-Americans said the Internet helped them stay connected to their cultures. Overall, more than 66 percent of African-Americans and Hispanics said they visited ethnic Web sites. However, more than half the African-American respondents said people of color have unique online needs, compared to only 16 percent of Hispanics and the general market. Furthermore, 66 percent of Hispanics said online content is adequate for them, compared to only 33 percent of African-Americans. A recent report by the Institute for the Future (Cain, Sarasohn-Kahn, and Wayne, 2000) concluded that significant opportunities exist to customize information to different segments of the population, based on factors such as age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, health status, and medical condition.
The Internet is potentially one of the most powerful tools available for communicating with diverse audiences. It is critical that