http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/31695

Online Disability Community Seeks to Narrow Digital Divide

Posted Jun 19, 2000 by Digital Journal Staff
Untitled
San Francisco - The Internet is the most significant equalizer ever, and
iCan, the leading disability community, this week launches a major effort to
raise awareness, narrow the digital divide and create opportunity for
people of all abilities.
With the support of General Motors Corporation, K-Mart and Microsoft
Diversity Recruiting, iCan and its Founder and CEO Heidi Van Arnem kicked
off a summerlong effort to bring awareness to the 10th anniversary of the
Americans with Disabilities Act.
"These three giant corporations represent a growing awareness that there
is great opportunity to reach the 85 percent of people with disabilities who
are not online yet -- and whose lives stand to be enhanced by connecting to
the Internet," Van Arnem said.
Van Arnem, recently named one of the Top 25 Women on the Web, is uniquely
qualified to speak for and about the disability community. Van Arnem, a
quadriplegic since being shot at age 16, knows well what people with
disabilities need and want.
"Disabilities disappear with advancements in technology," Van Arnem said.
Opportunities such as home-based employment, shopping and educational
instruction offer independence, opportunity and relief from isolation. iCan
seeks to bring the information, products, services and resources to the
disability community.
The ADA represents 10 years of progress, but there is much more to be
done. Seventy percent of people with disabilities remain unemployed, yet
the
majority wants to work. "The 'Digital Divide' -- the divide between those
with access to new technologies and those without -- is a leading issue for
people with disabilities," Van Arnem says. Van Arnem cites these statistics
from recent studies:
  • 85 percent of people with disabilities are not online.
  • Of those people with disabilities who are online, 48 percent say the
    Internet has significantly improved their quality of life, compared with 27
    percent of those people without disabilities.
  • Computer users with disabilities reported spending twice the hours
    online and e-mailing as others did.
    Van Arnem and iCan intend to highlight the need for continued awareness, in
    the effort to improve accessibility standards and to connect more people to
    the technology that will enhance their lives. iCan is poised to be the news
    and information leader of the Spirit of ADA Torch Relay from June 11 through
    Aug. 7, 2000. iCan News Service will distribute our coverage - free of
    charge - to non-profits, influential media outlets and, of course, our "On
    the Road with iCan" partners.
    "This is not a story about iCan," Van Arnem says. "It is about the millions
    of people with disabilities, their accomplishments and their aspirations."
    iCan, based in Birmingham, Mich., and located online at
    http://www.ican.com/, is the vision of Heidi Van Arnem, a nationally
    recognized entrepreneur and leader in the disability community. Her vision
    for iCan is to employ, enable and enhance the lives of others with
    disabilities.
    www.ican.com