Breaking down barriers to digital inclusion of persons with intellectual disabilities

In a constantly evolving world, digital inclusion of persons with intellectual disabilities is essential. Having in mind this year’s theme of the European Day of Persons with Disabilities “growing together in a barrier-free Europe”, Inclusion Europe and its partners in the SafeSurfing project are pointing out the importance of technology as a tool to improve the lives of young persons with intellectual disabilities. Helping them to safely access the digital world contributes to break down the barriers to their full inclusion in society.

Persons with intellectual disabilities are more vulnerable online, and more prone to suffering abuse. Children and young persons with intellectual disabilities are especially exposed to cybercrimes such as cyberbullying or online sexual harassment. They face many dangers due to problems with understanding issues of data protection, or the fact that accessing easy-to-read information could identify a user as having an intellectual disability.

To achieve an effective protection of their personal data, persons with intellectual disabilities have to be provided with the personal support and training they need to decide which data and information they want to share with others. Securing their personal data protects them against discrimination from insurance companies, employers, banks. Supporting persons with intellectual disabilities in using the internet safely could have a huge impact on their level of independence, their well-being and their sense of ownership.

SafeSurfing is an innovative project aiming to train persons with intellectual disabilities on data protection and safe online behavior. Inclusion Europe and project partners ANFFAS, Mencap, Plena Inclusion and PSOUU are working on keeping persons with intellectual disabilities safe online, by improving their knowledge and skills when it comes to protecting their personal information online, and by raising awareness of the challenges they face in this area.

In order to develop training modules that respond to the needs and concerns of persons with intellectual disabilities, project partners launched a social media campaign on the risks and challenges faced by persons with intellectual disabilities when using the internet and social media. Raising issues on informed consent, transparency, and particularly on the need of users to consciously agree or disagree with data processing, these results also called on European Union policy-makers to take into account the needs of persons with intellectual disabilities in the implementation of the Data Protection Reform Package. Participants emphasized the need for persons with intellectual disabilities to be provided with information on how their data is being processed in a free and accessible format, following the European Standards for Making Information Easy to Read and Understand.

Five training videos, available in each language of the project, have already been produced by project partners to help people with intellectual disabilities navigate different aspects of data protection – from understanding what personal information is, to setting up secure profiles on social media, handling privacy settings on mobile devices, or managing potentially risky situations. The videos were all created in collaboration with people with intellectual disabilities.

After a year of development and testing, SafeSurfing project partners are now ready to roll out interactive online training sessions on data protection and safe online behavior for persons with intellectual disabilities. The five training modules will be accessible while offering the possibility to ask questions in real time. Registrations will open mid-December.

For more information about SafeSurfing, please contact Vanessa Vovor, Communications Officer at