Promoting Technology for All

Mon, September 26, 2016

Imagine life without your cell phone or computer. No email, texts or camera for selfies.

Unfortunately, that’s a reality for many of the 28 million Americans with cognitive disabilities, who have limited or no access to communication technology.

A group of six YAI Self-Advocates are hoping to change that by spreading the word about the Declaration of the Rights of People with Cognitive Disabilities to Technology and Information Access.

Empowering YAI’s Self-Advocates

Thanks to a $10,000 Declaration Implementation Grant from the Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities at the University of Colorado, the Self-Advocates are serving as Declaration Champions. In the coming months, they will meet  with YAI’s Board of Trustees, Senior Management Team, visit programs and staff at regional meetings to encourage everyone to sign the Declaration and support this important initiative.

“Everybody has the right to have access to technology, whether a person does or does not have a disability,” said Harvey Pacht, one of the Declaration Champions.

For Sonja Williams-Richardson, a Declaration Champion and Assistant Director of YAI’s Learning and Talent Development, who is supporting the group, the opportunity to empower the Self-Advocates about this issue has provided a new perspective.

Technology Enhancing Lives

“I don't think I really ever thought before about the importance of technology for the people we support,” Sonja said. But then she listened to a young woman who attended the Self-Advocacy Association of New York State Conference. “She described how technology linked to her motorized wheelchair means she no longer depends on support staff to push her around in a manual wheelchair. She loves her independence.”

And, of course, technology can provide access to entertainment, as Robert Cardona, a Declaration Champion, knows all too well. Through Facebook, he has connected with friends from high school. He turns to YouTube for listening to disco music and watching old television shows.

“Technology has improved my life,” Robert said. “There isn’t a single day that I don’t go on the computer.”

Proud Declaration Champions

Being named a Declaration Champion is an honor for the Self-Advocates.

“It means that I’ve come a long way as a Self-Advocate,” Robert said. “I can advocate for others who may not be able to advocate for themselves. We’re here to change people’s lives and empower them.”

“It means you have a brain,” Ismael Nunez, Declaration Champion, added. “It means you know things many might not know and you can educate them. You get respect, people believe in you and you believe in yourself. It makes you feel great!”

Congratulations to our Declaration Champions: Terry Bryson, Jr., Car'Melo Grau-Puig,  Janice McPhillip, Harvey, Ismael and Robert.

Read and sign the Declaration today.