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Keywords:

  • Internet;
  • disabilities;
  • information

It becomes increasingly obvious that computers and the internet will play a prominent role in healthcare in the 21st century in America. The use of these tools in telecommunications technology to inform and educate has resulted in the emerging field of interactive health communication (IHC). The value of this new field is heightened by its potential to make health-related information and services more accessible to vulnerable populations such as people with disabilities. The assessment of user needs is one of the first activities necessary in the development of IHC applications. This article reports our findings from a survey conducted as the first step in developing a program of interactive health applications for people with disabilities resulting from brain and spinal cord injuries. A rehabilitation center conducted a 3-year retrospective survey of patients who had completed rehabilitation from brain or spinal cord injury. The survey found that 73% of respondents surveyed had access to and used computers, and 68% had access to the Internet. Our findings show that people with disabilities are using computers and the Internet, suggesting these tools' potential as a medium for the dissemination of health-related information and services for this underserved population. Further findings and key issues related to IHC design and application are discussed.