The Lingraphica Blog

Aphasia Study: Aphasia's Impact on Use of Internet and Digital Devices

May 28, 2019 | by Richard Steele, PhD

Lingraphica Co-founder and Chief Scientist, Dr. Richard Steele, summarizes the results of a survey from aphasia researchers from Queen Margaret University and Newcastle University that assessed aphasia's impact on uses of the internet and associated digital devices. The goal of the study was to expand current understandings of advanced technologies' patterns of use by persons with aphasia (PWA), the circumstances and goals of such uses, and users' perceptions of the benefits and challenges.

The researchers administered a face-to-face supported questionnaire to 25 PWA and, for comparison, to 17 non-aphasic persons who were demographically similar. Topic areas probed in the two groups were: (i) types of uses of internet and digital technologies; (ii) traditional, unaided communication activities; (iii) respondents’ perceptions of their own technological and communicative abilities; and (iv) respondents’ perceptions of barriers to acquiring or improving skills for using technologies. The authors’ approach to interpreting the data for conclusions combined content analyses, descriptive statistics, and inferential statistics.

Data analyses reveals that some responses were common across all participants. In both groups, levels of user independence ranged from fully autonomous to reliance on proxies; in both groups, degree of engagement with technologies diminished with increasing age; and in both groups, higher confidence levels were positively correlated with more years of formal education. But areas of divergence between the groups were also found: PWA consider their aphasia a barrier, reliance on proxies is more prevalent among PWA, and text use via technology remains a particular challenge for PWA. Statistically, digital TV was the only technology for which adoption rate among PWA (96%) exceeded that in the comparison group (88%). For all other digital technologies (smartphones, e-readers, digital cameras, etc.), use rates among PWA lagged the comparison group’s by 4% – 37%. Also, for communication with friends and family, PWA prefer meeting in person to connecting electronically.

Technology clearly holds promise for delivering benefits to PWA, but further work appears to be needed to match operational demands with user preferences and capabilities, and to develop new technology offerings for their effective use by PWA. Given its flexibility and widespread current adoption among PWA, digital TV may hold potential for further useful adaptation.

For further reading:  F. Menger, J. Morris, C. Salis. The impact of aphasia on internet and technology use. Disability and Rehabilitation. Published online 13 April 2019.