Washington, D.C., Sept. 17 – Comcast is tackling the digital divide through a major expansion of its Internet Essentials program, a low-cost home broadband internet offering for low-income populations and free training on how to use the Internet.
At an event at the Newseum last week, a partnership with the American Association for People with Disabilities (AAPD) was announced, to ensure that the disability community would benefit from this program as well. Comcast has provided a substantial grant to AAPD to help launch a digital literacy pilot program to be delivered at 10 AAPD affiliates across the country, leading to residents within the low-income disability community to have access.
Comcast has a history of innovating on accessible technology. Comcast invented the industry’s first talking television guide and the first live entertainment program accessible to people with visual disabilities. David L. Cohen, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer of Comcast NBCUniversal, noted that these accessible products help everyone, not just people with disabilities.
But as Cohen pointed out, all of these technologies are great, but they don’t go all the way to address the digital divide. According to Comcast, 23 percent of people with disabilities never go online and 57 percent lack home broadband. The Internet Essentials program lowers the cost of home broadband for low-income Americans, while also providing them with free online and in-person training on how to use the technology.
New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan, whose 31-year-old son has cerebral palsy, spoke at the event. She noted that “it’s no longer a luxury” to have access to high-speed broadband. She talked about the importance of having an opportunity to feel and be included. Hassan also discussed the unemployment rate gap for people with disabilities versus people without disabilities. She believes that access to skills and training from the Internet Essentials program will enable people with disabilities to take a “critical step forward as they try to enter the workforce.”
Maria Town, AAPD President, added the importance of internet access in significant moments like natural disasters. For example, the internet saved lives during Hurricane Harvey, connecting people to critical resources.
With the expansion of the Internet Essentials Program, Comcast begins to bridge the digital divide by lowering cost and increasing training for all low-income users, including people with disabilities.