The impact of aphasia on Internet and technology use
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Menger, F., Morris, J. & Salis, C. (2019) The impact of aphasia on Internet and technology use. Disability & Rehabilitation (In Press).
Purpose: This study compared Internet use post-stroke in people with aphasia (n = 25) and without aphasia (n = 17). The purpose was to understand how people with aphasia were using the Internet and to investigate the impact of aphasia on their use. Materials and methods: A face-to-face supported questionnaire explored the use of technologies, types of Internet use, traditional and Internet communication, the perception of abilities, and possible barriers to acquiring or improving Internet skills. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to analyze the data. Results: Internet use ranged from fully independent to by proxy across both groups. Most participants perceived their aphasia as a barrier, but for the majority, it was not the sole reason for failing to acquire or improve skills. Aphasia was related to difficulties with technology-based written communication. Educational attainment was related to participant’s feelings about their own skills. Whilst aphasia was important, analysis revealed that age was a stronger predictor of Internet use per se. Conclusions: It is clear that aphasia often negatively affects Internet use and proficiency. However, this research clearly demonstrates that it is important to consider the influence of factors such as age, proxy use, education, and previous technology use and experience. Implications for rehabilitation Post-stroke aphasia contributes negatively to Internet use, particularly in the use of online communication tools such as email and messaging services. Sub-groups of people with aphasia are likely to be more vulnerable to exclusion from the benefits of the Internet; specifically, older people and those with lower levels of educational attainment. It is common for both older adults with and without aphasia to use the Internet via a proxy. Independent use may not always be the desired goal within rehabilitation. People with aphasia may perceive their age and disability as barriers to using the Internet and may lack confidence in their own ability or potential.