From our recent work, it appears that we in accessibility/inclusion have been underestimating the challenge of cognitive disabilities — and digital literacy. We have always thought it was really tough, but our recent work has caused us to re-assess both the size of the problem (much larger than we thought) and the growing impact. We now think it is a much wider problem than we understood, and one that goes beyond those we have thought of as having cognitive disabilities. It intersects with digital literacy but also has implications for those with other disabilities as well. I will be discussing the concept of Technology Quotient (TQ) as well as approaches we are exploring to address access by people with cognitive disabilities and low digital literacy today, tomorrow, and for next-next generation technologies.
Gregg Vanderheiden is a Professor in the School of Information Studies (iSchool) at the University of Maryland, College Park, and Director of the Trace Research & Development Center at the University of Maryland. Dr. Vanderheiden is the principal investigator of the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Information Technology Access, and a co-principal investigator for the RERC on Telecom Access funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. Dr. Vanderheiden has been working in the area of access to technology for over 47 years. He was a pioneer in the field of Augmentative Communication (a term taken from his writings in 1979). He then worked with the computer industry in getting them to build disability access features directly into their standard products. For example, access features developed by Dr. Vanderheiden and his team have been built into the Apple’s Macintosh OS since 1987, IBM’s OS/2 and the UNIX X Window system since 1993. 9 of the first 10 access features built into Windows 95 (and subsequently 98, NT, 2000, Vista, Windows 7, 8, and 10) were licensed (royalty-free) from Dr. Vanderheiden and his team.