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Technology learning and use among older adults with late-life vision impairments


Increasing numbers of older adults are now using computers and going online. Yet, certain disabilities that are acquired later in life, such as severe vision impairments, make it difficult to use modern information and communication technologies (ICTs). Currently, we have a limited understanding of how older adults with late-life vision impairments adopt, learn, and use ICTs to communicate and seek information. To address this gap in the literature, this paper presents results from in-depth interviews with 15 older adults (age 60–99), who are low vision or blind, to understand how they use technologies to stay connected and engage online. While the older adults in this study have physical access to computers and many are motivated to explore new technologies to stay in touch, a number of barriers exist to using modern communication devices and online tools (e.g., e-mail, search, social media). Vision impairment in older adulthood presents complex challenges due to one’s changing visual abilities coupled with an evolving landscape of accessible communication technologies. Additionally, the benefits of using modern devices are juxtaposed with generational values of what is meaningful communication and the familiarity and inherent accessibility of phone communication. The paper concludes with a discussion of challenges and opportunities for the design of accessible ICT for older adults with vision impairments.

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The authors would like to thank all study participants for assisting with this research and Charlotte Marshall-Fricker for her help transcribing the interviews. This work was supported by National Science Foundation Grants IIS-1533340 and IIS-1551574.

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Correspondence to Anne Marie Piper.

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Piper, A.M., Brewer, R. & Cornejo, R. Technology learning and use among older adults with late-life vision impairments. Univ Access Inf Soc 16, 699–711 (2017).

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