Institute Activities

Public Policy Advocacy and Outreach Public Policy icon

The Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities believes that strong public policies are key to  guaranteeing access to technology and information for people with cognitive disabilities and their families. Policies must have must have language that includes inclusiveness; including accessibility features in the first stages of the design cycle, and establishing effective public-private partnerships needed to safeguard long-term implementation and sustainability of products and services.

The Rights of People with Cognitive Disabilities to Technology and Information Access (the Declaration),  is the Institute’s public policy position on technology.   It is a statement of principles, advanced by the Coleman Institute and  co-authored with a group of leaders from national disability organizations and areas in cognitive disability.  This document is a call for action and to date has obtained over 400 organizational signatures and 1500 individual signatures.  These signatures represent a grassroots movement that has resulted in laws being passed in Colorado (2014) and Maine (2015), with the goal of introducing and passing legislation in the remaining 48 states, and possibly at the federal level.  The Declaration was also included as a key recommendation in the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities (PCPID) PCPID-2015-Report-to-President: Leveling the Playing Field: Improving Technology Access and Design for People with Intellectual Disabilities.  In 2016, to further lawmaking efforts and continue building grassroots momentum for the rights of people with cognitive disabilities, the Institute awarded six Declaration Implementation Grants (DIGS) to recipients in New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Iowa, and Colorado.

Annual Conferences on Cognitive Disability and Technology Conference icon

The Coleman Institute annual conference is a signature Institute activity with a university, regional, and national reputation.  As the Institute has grown, so has its annual conference, while staying committed to finding technology solutions that could enhance the quality of life for people with cognitive disabilities and their families.  The 2016 conference  included over 700 registered attendees, 24 breakout sessions, 2 keynotes and 3 distinguished panels that focused on technology’s impact on the domains of living. Over the years, nationally known keynotes have included:  Timothy Shriver, Chairman of the Board, International Special Olympics; John Seely Brown, former Chief Scientist, Xerox Corporation; Vinton Cerf, Chief Technology Evangelist, Google (and co-designer of the protocols and architecture of the Internet); Raymond Kurzweil, inventor and entrepreneur,  and Tom Wheeler, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The conference continues to provide an important forum for conversations and relationship-building by bringing together a diverse group of individuals including; self-advocates, family members, academics, leaders in state and federal government, industry leaders, engineers, software developers, and service providers, to share knowledge and insights.  The  18th Annual Conference on Cognitive Disability and Technology was held on October 3, 2018 at the OMNI Interlocken Hotel in Broomfield, Colorado.

Research and Development Support Research icon

A core activity of the Institute is to give grants for cognitive disability and applied cognitive technology research and development to CU faculty on four campuses of the University. Since its inception, the Institute has provided more than 150 grants for seed funding and/or laboratory support for research, matching funds to assist CU faculty in securing Federal and private grants, and support for postdoctoral fellows and graduate students to pursue their research careers. In addition, the Institute has provided support for special projects involving academic initiatives and mission-related conference support.

A chief investment of the Coleman Institute has been in the co-funding of three federal National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) Center grants. In 2004, NIDILRR initiated funding for the nation’s first Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for the Advancement of Cognitive Technologies (RERC-ACT). In a peer reviewed national competition, the University of Colorado succeeded in securing the Center. In 2009 and 20014, the grant was re-competed and, the University of Colorado received funding. The combined federal grants exceed $9 million and the combined commitment by the Coleman Institute for RERC-ACT I (2004-2009), RERC-ACT II (2009-2014), RERC-ACT III (2014-2019) was over $1.8 million. Cathy Bodine, Associate Professor, Bioengineering Anschutz Medical Center leads the center as principal investigator.

The RERC-ACT III has focused their research and activities on improving employment outcomes for people with cognitive disabilities.  To learn more about the RERC-ACT III projects and other RERC’s visit Assistive Technology Partners, UC Denver.

The Institute supports research and development projects on a wide range of other kinds of technologies and applications. Advances have been made in areas such as batteryless-wireless power for sensors and devices. Biomedical science and technology projects funded by the Institute include a drug delivery system for conditions such as schizophrenia and epilepsy, immunological studies of AIDS/HIV with potential pharmacological interventions, the development of bio-compatible electrodes for in vivo recording and stimulation in the brain using Cellular Engineering Micro Systems and wireless telemetry, an investigation of drugs to prevent decline in cognitive function, and non-human stem cell research in a mouse model of Down syndrome.

The Coleman Institute works with faculty and the University’s Office of Technology Transfer (TTO) to encourage commercialization of research and development-generated intellectual property for the benefit of people with cognitive disabilities.

Coleman Fellows Research student icon

The Institute has awarded $1.2 million in Coleman fellowships.  Many of these fellowships have been  tied to federally funded research grants and were awarded as a leveraging match to support competitive CU faculty proposals. Dozens of graduate students have been supported by the Institute at all campuses of the University of Colorado.

The 2018 Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities Fellows are: Annika Muehlbradt and Shawn Polson.

The State of the States in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities State of the States Project logo

To learn more about the State of the States in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Project of National Significance, please visit: