Mary Kay Rizzolo

Declaration Commentary

by Mary Kay Rizzolo

Technology has become an essential part of most of our lives. However, individuals with cognitive disabilities do not have the same access to technology as most other people. While progress has been made to increase opportunities for individuals with visual impairments to access the Internet and other technologies (e.g., through screen readers, magnifiers), and for individuals with physical disabilities (e.g., shortcut keys, Siri voice input), opportunities for individuals with cognitive disabilities to access technology are still lagging behind. This is especially true for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

It is important to find out what people with disabilities want to use technology for. Sometimes the perceptions of family members can be different from those of people with disabilities. Just recently we asked a group of parents about their children’s desire to get on the Internet. They all told us “no,” their children didn’t want to use it. However, when we talked to the individuals with I/DD themselves, they ALL enthusiastically expressed their desire to get online. They wanted to look up recipes, listen to music, and – yes – get on facebook! Do you have a family member with a disability and have you asked what ways he or she may want to use technology to enhance their life?

The Declaration of the Rights of People with Cognitive Disabilities to Technology and Information Access is a statement of commitment made by 165 organizations and hundreds of individuals that supports the right of people to access technology and information to enhance their lives. This will help ensure that the 28 million Americans with cognitive disabilities can do the things that we take for granted every day. Access to technology and information can increase employment and educational opportunities, increase health promotion, increase social networking, and potentially decrease loneliness.

The Institute on Disability and Human Development enthusiastically supports the Declaration as a means of promoting full inclusion and citizenship for people with cognitive disabilities. So we encourage you to read it, endorse it, promote it!!