Beach Center on Disability

Current Project

Intellectual disabilities and technology disability and rehabilitation research project


Michael Wehmeyer, P.I. and Susan Palmer and Denise Lance of the Beach Center on Disability and the Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities,

Sean Smith, Department of Special Education, University of Kansas. 

Grant Partners 

Dan Davies and Steve Stock at AbleLink Technologies Inc., Colorado Springs, CO;

Sharon Davis, The Arc of the United States;

Barbara Bishop and Kathy Lobb at Self-Advocate Coalition of Kansas;

David Braddock at The Coleman Institute, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs;

The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (formerly American Association on Mental Retardation), in conjunction with a number of other disabilities organizations such as the Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation.


This project will engage in multiple activities to examine what features of technology design meet the needs of people with mental retardation and other cognitive disabilities, what gaps exist in the utilization of technology by people with mental retardation, what state-of-the-art technology exists or is emerging that will benefit people with mental retardation, and what modifications to existing technology or new technology design features will enhance community inclusion and integration into the workplace for this population. 


Project activities are being conducted at the University of Kansas, in conjunction with several national organizations, and at AbleLink Technologies, Inc. in Colorado Springs, CO, and will involve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities across the country.


The project began in 2001 and will end in October 2007


Two national consensus conferences were held n conjunction with the national conferences of the American Association on Mental Retardation and The Arc of the United States. These conferences addressed the features of technology design and utilization of technology by stakeholders interested in technology and intellectual disabilities. The second conference focused on what existing and emerging technologies have the features identified in the first consensus forum and what modifications can be made to existing technologies to include those features. 

The project conducted reviews and syntheses of the literature, conducted focused interviews of key stakeholders, established a Special Interest Group on Technology and Intellectual Disabilities through the American Association on Mental Retardation, and will continue to participate in a national expert advisory capacity for national disability organizations, manufacturers, people with mental retardation, experts in the field, and parent/family representatives who were involved in all consensus building activities.

The project identified technology gaps and needs for people with intellectual disabilities by conducting a national survey (through The Arc, AAMR, and Beach Center audiences) of technology utilization and barriers to that utilization for people with intellectual disabilities.

This information, along with information from the national consensus activities, was used to identify practical and affordable technology solutions to community and workplace needs of people with intellectual disabilities.  For example, AbleLink Technologies, Inc. has developed Pocket Ace, a cell phone technology built on a PDA platform, to support people with limited abilities and memory to receive and make phone calls.