By Cathy Enfield
The Declaration of The Rights of People with Cognitive Disabilities to Technology and Information Access embodies the importance of technology and information access in the lives of people with cognitive disabilities. As an adult with cognitive/developmental disabilities I know first-hand how important technology and information access is to me, and how vital the right to this access is to the hopes and opportunities for the future of all people with disabilities.
Part of my disability affects the clarity of my speech but technology has provided me an accommodation in the form of my IPad which enables me to communicate with clarity.
My IPad is an example of technology that is obvious, but in fact technology is in most of the things we now take for granted in everyday life. For example, I recently purchased a K-cup coffee maker. I am fairly certain that this device was not developed as assistive technology, but for someone like me who has coordination difficulties it enables me to fix my own coffee without assistance. By being able to take advantage of the technology in this device I have gained a little more independence and freedom. These are precious things to a person with disabilities.
It is this same need for independence and freedom in our lives that makes the rights for access to technology and information so important to people with cognitive disabilities.
Over the past several years we have seen great advances in technology to assist people with physical disabilities. These are important and encouraging developments, but for people with cognitive disabilities access to technology and information is just as important. We must work to level the playing field to include equal opportunities for accommodations for all people no matter what their disability may be.
In order to participate in our communities we need access to information and the ability to communicate. Yet we know that most people with cognitive disabilities have limited or no access at all to this technology or to understandable information about how to use it.
Reducing the barriers to information and technology for individuals with cognitive disabilities is becoming more important as these technologies play a larger role in everyday life. Without access to these technologies people with cognitive disabilities will become more and more disconnected from their community and from opportunities to be part of it. Many of the gains we have made in integrating people with cognitive disabilities into their communities will be lost. Promoting the Declaration is a powerful way to help prevent that from happening.
I believe that working to obtain equal rights and opportunities for all people to technology and information access is vitally important to our future. I also believe that, given the speed at which our world is changing, we do not have a great deal of time in which to act.