Description of Internet Use by Transition-Aged Youths with Visual Impairments in the United States: Assessing the Impact of Postsecondary Predictors
Structured abstract: Introduction: Youths and adults without disabilities have been increasing the regularity of their online connectivity at a rapid pace, as previous research has indicated. The study presented here examined the degree to which transition-aged youths with visual impairments have used the Internet and what outcomes they have achieved following their graduation from high school. Methods: The authors conducted a secondary analysis of the National Longitudinal Transition Study–2 (NLTS2) database and assessed a nationally representative sample of youths with visual impairments who were making the transition from high school to further education or work. The descriptive analysis showed estimates of Internet use among these youths during three periods (2005, 2007, and 2009). Multilevel longitudinal modeling was used to analyze the change in the prevalence of Internet use as the youths matured and to assess the impact of postsecondary opportunities on online communication. Results: Across the three waves of data collection, an average of 43% of the transition-aged youths with visual impairments used the Internet regularly for online communication. There was no significant change in the use of the Internet as these young people matured (p = .06). The youths who used the Internet for regular online communication were significantly more likely to be engaged in postsecondary work (p < .01), education or training (p < .01), or volunteering and engaging in community service (p < .01). Discussion: The study showed that transition-aged youths with visual impairments are not progressing at rates commensurate with their peers without disabilities in the vital area of Internet use. Their best performance, in Wave 5, was 49%; compared to 93% of youths without disabilities in the same year. The positive impact of participation in postsecondary opportunities on the likelihood of online connectivity is demonstrated. Implications for practitioners: Implications for lifelong success in today's technology-driven society are discussed.