Disabled people 'face online barrier to services'
Moving public services online is creating a barrier for many disabled people in Wales, campaigners claim.
Disability Wales is concerned that an estimated 40% of disabled people do not have access to the internet, compared to just 12% of non-disabled people.
An 18-month project to boost "digital inclusion" will be the focus of a seminar in Wrexham.
Rhian Davies, chief executive of Disability Wales, said disabled people needed targeted help to get online.
She said several factors were likely to stop disabled people getting access to digital services, they included:
- Affordability, with many disabled people relying on benefits
- Lack of skills, education, or training opportunities
- Individual impairment, with many people needing assistive technology such as speech recognition software
Ms Davies said the 500 people helped through workshops in the Digital Lives project were just the "tip of the iceberg" of half a million people in Wales with a disability.
She added: "Being a supportive environment has been quite helpful - it's quite daunting for disabled people to go to a library by themselves to learn how to use the internet."
Margaret Barnard, 70, from Coelbren, Powys, already knew how to use computers from her time as a teacher before she became disabled due to a lung condition.
"I can't walk very far, so the computer is just marvellous for shopping," said Mrs Barnard.
She has helped other members of the Breathe Easy Neath Valley support group access the internet.
"I've gone to people's houses, shown them how to use email, do a search, write and print a letter," said Mrs Barnard.
"Once you do those things for the first time you're up and away."
Communities Minister Lesley Griffiths, who has recorded a video message for the event at Glyndwr University on Wednesday, said: "Arguably, disabled people have most to gain from digital technologies.
"It can help reduce isolation and enable independent living by giving disabled people the same choice and control over their lives as everyone else.
"Communities 2.0, our digital inclusion programme, has helped support almost 50,000 people so far.
"I want to encourage partners to continue to work together to help more disabled people get online."