Why is this research needed?
The Internet is an important part of today’s world, facilitating both practical and social aspects of everyday living. However, many people struggle to access the Internet, which can put them at risk of exclusion from the life-changing benefits available online. People who develop communication difficulties after a stroke (aphasia) are more likely to find themselves in this excluded group due to problems they may have with processing spoken and written language. This puts them at a disadvantage in accessing services which could be of significant benefit to them.
This research is important as it will be the first study to investigate a broad range of factors influencing access to the Internet for people with aphasia.
What do the researchers hope to do?
The researchers from the Department of Speech and Language Sciences at the University of Newcastle will be working with experts from the SiDE project (Social inclusion in the Digital Economy) to help us understand how we can best support people with aphasia to get online, stay online and get the most out of what the Internet has to offer. There are well-identified factors which are known to contribute to people not using the Internet (e.g. poverty, increasing age, poor health). This study is aiming to systematically investigate what additional barriers a person will experience as a result of living with aphasia.
We will be recruiting people with aphasia who were able to competently use the Internet prior to having a stroke, but who now experience difficulties predominantly due to their language problems. For each person, we will be working out the best means to enable them to access services. We will then look at the individuals as a group, looking at which factors are more likely to influence the ability to tackle barriers to Internet access.
The combination of two academic departments supporting the fellow gives a unique perspective to the work. It is intended that we will share our findings with Speech and Language Therapists, charities working with people with aphasia, and the accessibility and web design communities.