Margaret A. Nygren

Inclusion in the Online Community

by Margaret A. Nygren, EdD

Thanks to the tireless work of advocates, we have in place laws, policies, and practices that promote inclusion and choice for people with intellectual disability and other cognitive conditions that can impact quality of life and independent living. The Rights of People with Cognitive Disabilities to Technology and Information Access moves the discussion forward with its declaration or statement of principles on the rights of all people to inclusion and choice in technology and information access.

The time has come to understand what it takes and how to promote inclusion for people with disabilities in today’s largest community: the online community.  People with and without disabilities have an equal interest in—and right to—the use of technology, yet without a mandate to assure equal access, people with disabilities are already being excluded from the world-expanding opportunities that technology provides.

Every day more people utilize the internet, software, and off-the-shelf devices to access information, socialize, participate in government, seek employment, and engage in commerce. To the greatest extent possible, these generic tools must be made cognitively accessible and in addition, unique or adapted technology must be developed to assure that people with disabilities can fully participate in the larger community, achieve their goals, and have the highest possible quality of life.

The Declaration has provided a tangible catalyst for discussion on this crucial issue between disability advocates and the technology industry. Rather than treating accessibility as solely a special or retro-fitted consideration, we have the opportunity to advance the adoption of existing accessible technologies and to develop new intuitive, human-centered tools that are optimally accessible at initial launch.