Assistive Technology/Universal Design Summit
Hynes Convention Center, Boston
Friday, September 23, 2011
Good morning. Thank you for having me.
You are in the right place at the right time. Because technology is transforming peoples' lives - and we need to be sure it is changing in the right ways. Every day there are more powerful computers, smarter phones and hipper technologies. Judging from the advertising we see everywhere, most of these products are pitched to younger buyers.
At the same time, our population is getting older. More people are living with disabilities. And sometimes, these realities are not connected to this new technological world.
That has to be fixed. Economically, we simply need to tap into all the resources and talent that our Commonwealth has to offer, including our older and disabled workers. There is too much to do and too many contributions to be made to risk leaving anyone behind.
There is an urgent need for action. Today, over 11 percent of Massachusetts residents have a disability. We are the seventh oldest state in the nation -- with a median age of 39 (though it seems to me quite absurd to call that age "old"). By 2030, 20% of Americans will be over 65. Yet the marketing of technology is going one way, and our population is going the other.
Here in Massachusetts we're doing what we do best. We are tapping into both our brainpower and our willingness to help one another to develop extraordinary technologies that help people live full and productive lives. Advances in assistive technology and universal design strategies mean that we have an extraordinary opportunity to assert our leadership in this field.
Last August, I toured the Leonard Florence Center for Living with members of my cabinet. Some of you may be familiar with this facility. The extraordinary Barry Berman, who is here today, of the Chelsea Jewish Foundation, runs it and it was designed by architect Steven Saling. What I saw was a facility that enables disabled individuals to live with maximum independence through the use of unique assistive technologies. I watched residents control doors, room temperature, lights and other environmental features through eye-gaze and other innovative forms of activation. I saw a residence designed for unparalleled independence and productivity. I saw that here in Massachusetts we are finding solutions.
Stories like this are why we are committed to pairing the Commonwealth's Innovation agenda with the need to develop inclusive and assistive products and technologies. There is no question that the Commonwealth is a leader and national model in innovative technology. There is also no question that the Commonwealth is a leader in innovative health and human services programs. The richness of our non-profit, academic, research and business community is unparalleled.
So, we have to work together between and among Secretariats and across private and public research, design and business sectors to utilize all of the talent we have here. And in state government we have to model the values we want to encourage elsewhere, such as through our Model Employer Initiative, a strategy to improve the recruitment and retention of state workers with disabilities; and our new Mass.gov site, which will be accessible to this fall to individuals who cannot use a mouse or see the words on the screen.
Why? Because everyone should have the opportunity to live, learn, work and play to the fullest extent possible for all of their days. And as long as elders and people with disabilities still face barriers to independence, our work is not done.
I have designated this month Universal Design and Assistive Technology Awareness Month. This signifies our renewed focus in supporting innovation and advancement in this field. Because every step we take to improve the life of an individual today is an investment in collective our future.
Once again, thank you for hosting this important conference. Make the most of your time together to come up with real solutions and action steps. And show us how to help you help yourselves.
Above all, thank you for your commitment to the work. I look forward to working with all of you in the future.