Chris Collins

Declaration Commentary by Chris Collins

It feels like just yesterday that the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), became the law and changed the lives of people with cognitive disabilities forever. Yet today, access to technology and information, crucial to education, is not protected for those same people. As stated in the Declaration, The Rights of People with Cognitive Disabilities to Technology and Information Access, “the vast majority of people with cognitive disabilities have limited or no access to comprehensive information and usable communication technologies”.

The Rights of People with Cognitive Disabilities to Technology and Information Access is a critical tool to impact change by creating awareness of the issue and a dialogue about it. Just like the IDEA, this Declaration is too important to the lives of people with cognitive disabilities to be ignored. If we truly believe in inclusion for the people we support and serve, enabling them to participate in everyday community life and to have a meaningful quality of life, then access to the online community must be available. Simply put, just as all of us in the mainstream of society have access to information and technology, so should people with cognitive disabilities.

Why is this important? By eliminating barriers to information and technology, people with cognitive disabilities will be able to better understand what is being said and written. This will open doors and enhance their lives and the lives of those with whom they interact. This will lead to expanded employment opportunities and richer social experiences. For some, their online community may become an important part of their life. Access to emergency services recently hit the news when several states and counties within states added 911 texting capability. Why not make this mandatory nationwide and provide critical, if not lifesaving, access for those who are not able to access 911 emergency services by verbal communication?

It is imperative that providers advocate for access to information and technology for the people we support and serve. I recently attended a presentation on Google Glass through the eyes of a person with an intellectual and developmental disability. With a simple voice command, Glass records, takes pictures, sends messages, and surfs the web, placing the world at the sound of your voice. I can only begin to imagine the ways in which Google Glass can enhance lives, including those with disabilities.

Alliance is proud to have been an early signee of the Declaration and will continue to be an active advocate on its behalf. We all need to advocate for funding and encourage industry leaders to embrace this change. At the end of the day all of us will benefit from this movement.