A Legal Aid BC study finds digital legal resources may be effective for some, but not for others—especially for people who face fundamental barriers that limit their ability to equitably access technology.
The Achieving Digital Equity research project examined the barriers people in British Columbia face when using online legal resources and services, how many are affected, and what can be done to ensure people get the legal help they need.
The research confirms there is a “digital divide” in BC, meaning those who have a lower income are less likely to have internet access at home compared to higher income households.
Our survey of BC residents found that 44 percent of people in lower income households – and 53 percent of people in very low-income households – face one or more barriers to using the Internet, compared with only 18 percent of people in moderate to high income households.
People with lower incomes can face secondary barriers that prevent use of online legal resources, including health and disability, trauma, literacy, privacy, access to technology and technical knowledge.
Although many people can use online resources like LABC’s websites, people who are marginalized face multiple barriers that limit their online access.
The report recommendations emphasize the importance of supportive, one-on-one help with digital legal resources and legal issues, whether it is over the phone with Legal Aid BC’s legal information outreach workers, or in-person with one of our community partners.
Over 850 BC residents, community workers, Legal Aid BC staff, and community partners took part in the multi-method study, which was funded by the LABC/Law Foundation Legal Research Fund.
Reports from all project activities are available on LABC’s website: Achieving Digital Equity project