Safe Surfing: People with intellectual disabilities to get training on data protection

BRUSSELS: 28 November 2014

Identity fraud, cybercrime, cyberbullying – all dangers we knowingly or unknowingly face when simply using the Internet. With 17 per cent of Europeans falling victim to identity theft every year, data protection is a major problem for all European citizens, and particularly for people with intellectual disabilities.

While the use of technological tools was one area which people with intellectual disabilities were particularly excluded from, the past years have luckily seen a major increase in people with an intellectual disability using technology to live more independently and more included in society. Whether to keep in contact with friends, find information online, or search for job opportunities, using the Internet and mobile applications greatly benefits people with intellectual disabilities in all aspects of their lives. Unfortunately, it also puts them at a much higher risk than the general population. Whether due to major difficulties in obtaining valid legal consent from people with intellectual disabilities, problems with understanding redress mechanisms, or even the simple fact that accessing easy-to-read information could identify a user as having an intellectual disability, people with intellectual disabilities are more vulnerable online, and more prone to suffering abuse.

“People using online banking and other websites might not know where the information they have given has gone. It worries me a lot and I can’t stop worrying,” said Ismail Kaji, who has an intellectual disability and is a Parliamentary Affairs Assistant at Mencap. “People online can pretend to be a company and get information from people. This makes me feel unsafe. It is hard, I don’t know who to speak to or where to go for support,” he added.

Therefore, Inclusion Europe, together with partners working in four other European countries, has launched an ambitious project aimed at training people with intellectual disabilities on data protection and on safe online behavior. It is crucial for the latter to be provided with the personal support and knowledge they need to decide what information they want to share with others. Therefore, within the framework of the SafeSurfing project, partners will reach more than 1000 people with intellectual disabilities directly, by using interactive online training sessions that offer participants the possibility of asking questions in real time. Moreover, thousands more could benefit from the five training videos on several areas of data protection that will be produced and shared by SafeSurfing Partners.

As part of the project, from 1 – 5 December, Inclusion Europe and project partners FEAPS, PSOUU, Mencap and ANFFAS will use their and Facebook and Twitter pages to ask questions related to risks and challenges for this particular group regarding data protection. The five organisations will post one question a day, each in their own working language. You can join the discussion on our Facebook page, or on the Facebook pages of our partners. You can also share your concerns on Twitter using the hashtag #SafeSurfing.

No full inclusion will take place until people with intellectual disabilities are able to enjoy all aspects of life on an equal basis with others. Supporting people 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.

For more information, please contact Silvana Enculescu, Inclusion Europe Communications Manager, at