Fostering Inclusivity for Children with Intellectual Disabilities through Data Protection by Design
Children with intellectual disabilities have consistently occupied a marginalised position within the digital landscape. While they might reap benefits from using digital products and services, they are also particularly vulnerable to online risks due to cognitive deficiencies and lower critical literacy skills. As a result, children with intellectual impairments frequently encounter various predicaments, encompassing online sexual solicitation, exposure to inaccurate information and manipulative behavioural designs, as well as various privacy and data protection concerns. Regarding these challenges, utilising data protection by design under Article 25(1) GDPR can play a pivotal role in dismantling certain barriers. This approach allows digital service providers to take children’s evolving capacities into account and implement technical and organisational measures appropriate for their age and developmental stage. The aim of this article is to explore what challenges children with intellectual disabilities might confront in the digital environment and examine how data protection by design can help prevent or mitigate these challenges. Specifically, the article proposes a series of potential measures as the following: (1) presenting information transparently and in a manner accessible to children with intellectual disabilities; (2) crafting an inclusive user interface that enables these children to actively and autonomously engage with the digital environment; (3) integrating interactive assistive tools, such as AI bots, to offer guidance and support; and (4) introducing parental control mechanisms that allow parents to provide assistance in alignment with their children's needs and preferences.
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