European Data Protection Day: An opportunity to empower persons with intellectual disabilities in the digital society

In the wake of the recent agreement on the European Commission’s EU Data Protection Reform package and in celebration of the European Day of Data Protection, let us think outside of the box.
Rapid technological developments that we have witnessed in the past several decades have improved the lives of many. Social networks changed the way we create and develop personal relationships; online shopping has transformed the way we buy clothes or food; online banking has an important impact on how we manage our money. Throughout all these changes, the scale of data sharing and collecting has increased dramatically. In our daily online activities, we share personal information with other people, private companies or public authorities, and this information is used on an unprecedented scale.

Persons with intellectual disabilities are interested in these technological changes as well, often finding solutions improving their quality of life. They are part of the digital society, and like other areas of life, persons with intellectual disabilities are much more vulnerable online and more prone to abuse of their personal data.

It is for that reason that Inclusion Europe, in collaboration with its partners ANFFAS, Mencap, Plena Inclusion and PSOUU, has developed the project Safe Surfing, which aims to ensure that persons with intellectual disabilities know how to protect their data and safely use the internet by improving their knowledge and skills related to data protection. Safe Surfing raises awareness on the challenges persons with intellectual disabilities face when they need to decide which data and information they want to share with others.

Therefore, on this European Data Protection Day, Inclusion Europe and its partners welcome the new Data Protection Reform, and in particular the General Data Protection Regulation, which is providing for a uniform protection of data across the Member States. We are particularly pleased to note that Article 11 of the Regulation specifically requires that any information and communication relating to personal data has to be provided using clear and plain language, adapted to the data subject. Inclusion Europe hopes that the implementing authorities will understand the use of clear and plain language to also include the production of Easy-to-Read versions of documents, in line with the European Standards for Making Information Easy to Read and Understand. We will continue working with the European Commission, the Parliament and other stakeholders in supporting better implementation of these standards throughout their activities.

It is encouraging to see that the Regulation also foresees that national data protection authorities are additionally empowered to provide adequate protection to individuals. Individuals will be able to address their national data protection authority directly, even if the concern regarding the use of personal data is in relation to a company outside of the EU. This will largely simplify access to protection for all, in particular for persons with intellectual disabilities. However, the implementation procedures and processes put in place should be accessible for persons with intellectual disabilities. In particular, implementation needs to be conducted bearing in mind that in many cases legal capacity of persons with intellectual disabilities to seek protection may be limited.

Inclusion Europe is looking forward to seeing the Data Protection Reform Package adopted and will work intensively in the two years until its entry into force and beyond with the European and national data protection stakeholders to ensure that persons with intellectual disabilities fully enjoy the improved protection of their data.

For more information, please contact Inclusion Europe’s Secretariat at secretariat@inclusion-europe.org.