It’s a new world for the disabled | AspenTimes.com

It’s a new world for the disabled

Aspen Times Staff Report

As advances in micro-electric and computer technology bring greater independence to people with cognitive disabilities, a new kind of civil rights movement is developing for the 21st century.

That’s the message of David Braddock, Ph.D, the executive director of the University of Colorado’s Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities, and a member of the board of directors of the International Special Olympics.

On Thursday, Dr. Braddock will give the final presentation in the Given Institute’s summer series. He will speak about “Cognitive Disability, Emerging Technology and the University of Colorado’s Coleman Institute.” The free lecture will take place at 5:30 p.m. at the Given Institute, at 100 E. Francis St. in Aspen.

According to Dr. Braddock, not only will people with developmental disabilities benefit from new technologies – so will those who suffer cognitive disabilities related to Alzheimer’s disease, and the normal aging process.

“People are surprised to discover the extent of the recent revolution in micro-electric and computer technology, and the great potential for supporting and assisting people with cognitive limitations,” said Dr. Braddock.

And as that technology continues to develop, more people will be able to function in the workplace, making the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 more and more relevant.

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The ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities, and as technological advances continue, more and more people with cognitive disabilities will be able to enter the workplace.

“Most people don’t think about the civil rights of people with cognitive limitations,” said Dr. Braddock. “But people with cognitive disabilities represent one of the most important social and civil rights movements of the 21st century.”

Technological advances include devices called “Personal Digital Assistance,” which provide both visual and audio messages that help guide users through tasks related to daily living – and on-the-job details.

“These are extremely user-friendly devices that can help people through everything from dressing themselves to catching a bus to completing a set of work-related instructions,” said Dr. Braddock.

The devices have become available commercially in recent years, but are still very expensive. As with any technological advance, Dr. Braddock expects the cost to drop in future years.

Other technology is focusing on providing greater independence for the aging, with a model currently in use at a home for the elderly in Portland, Ore. The new approach is called a “Smart House Environment,” and uses sensors that monitor movement and behavior.

Currently, many homes for the aging restrict the movement of the elderly, so that attendants can visually keep track of people – but the sensors allow for greater freedom, as caregivers are notified through sensors when the elderly leave the grounds or fall in the shower.

“There are currently no practical solutions for the shortage of manpower in assisted living situations,” said Dr. Braddock. “But this approach means that in the next 10 years, people will have more freedom in their daily activities.”

For more information, call 925-3730; or visit the Web site at http://www.giveninstitute.org.

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