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What are the Barriers to the Use of Advanced Telecommunications for Students with Disabilities in Public Schools?
NCES: 2000042
January 2000

Do students with disabilities attend schools where students have access to the Internet?

As schools become more technologically advanced, questions arise about access to these advancements for all types of students. Although studies have suggested that advanced telecommunications and computers may be especially beneficial for students with disabilities (e. g., Johnson 1986), providing access to computers and advanced telecommunications for students with disabilities may be considerably more costly than providing access for students without disabilities, since students with disabilities may require alternative input/ out-put devices or other costly adaptations. This issue brief focuses on school reports of access to advanced telecommunications for students who receive special education and related services. Such students will be referred to as "students with disabilities" in the remainder of this issue brief.

In 1996, a nationally representative survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics queried approximately 1,000 school administrators about the use of advanced telecommunications in their school. For this survey, advanced telecommunications were defined as modes of communication used to transmit information from one place to another, including broadcast and interactive television, networked computers, etc. This survey also included two questions about the use of advanced telecommunications by students with disabilities. The first question asked schools to report the percentage of students that received special education and related services. The survey found that in the fall of 1996, approximately 11 percent of students attending regular public elementary and secondary schools received special education and related services. The second question asked administrators to report the extent to which five barriers hindered the use of advanced telecommunications by students with disabilities. These data provide insights about the access of students with disabilities to advanced telecommunications.

Do students with disabilities attend schools where students have access to the Internet?

Access to and use of advanced telecommunications in public schools have opened a multitude of new opportunities for American students and their teachers. Through the Internet, students are gaining access to many of the world's largest and best-equipped libraries and communicating with authors and experts around the world- all without leaving their school buildings. Brought about by the presence and application of telecommunications and technologies in classrooms, labs, and libraries, these opportunities are spreading at a rapid rate. Between 1994 and 1998, the proportion of regular public schools with Internet access increased from 35 to 89 percent (U. S. Department of Education 1999a).

In fall 1996, 65 percent of public schools had Internet access (U. S. Department of Education 1997), and 73 percent of these schools indicated that students had access to the Internet, either through e-mail, newsgroups, or the World Wide Web. The proportion of students with disabilities attending regular public schools with Internet access was similar to that for students without disabilities. In fall 1996, 51 percent of students with disabilities and 51 percent of students without disabilities attended regular public schools where students had access to the Internet (Table 1).

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