The progress achieved over the past few decades has been astounding. For example, we have developed artificial intelligence and created sustainable and efficient energy alternatives. We have also taken significant steps in the social sphere, such as the 21st century’s first international treaty, signed by 161 countries, that defined the government’s responsibility to treat people with disabilities as rights-bearing individuals — the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
This recent and influential achievement should guide our objectives and inspire all of us — universities, civil society, corporations, media, etc. — in our daily practices. Today, diversity in the workplace is highly valued, as are policies that safeguard minorities’ access to classrooms and labs, for example, so that science and knowledge can be constructed from a plurality of views and perspectives.
At MIT, our research has advanced in extremely promising directions, always in search of a more just, prosperous, inclusive and compassionate world. The Alana Down Syndrome Center joins these efforts, leading us to honor and value the current and future contributions to the common good by people with disabilities.
Through the full development of human potential — still to be revealed in its totality — we strengthen fundamental liberties and respect towards human rights and diversity. When we refuse to favor this development, we squander the chance to discover how each person, in their uniqueness, can contribute to all of society’s development. Not despite society, but with society and also for society.
We must conduct more research and develop technologies that help give people with disabilities the possibility of developing social and practical skills to facilitate their participation in the educational system, in the workforce, and in community life. For this reason, we must ask ourselves: what are the challenges faced by people with disabilities in their daily lives? What barriers do they face? How can research help address their needs?
MIT is committed to generating, disseminating and preserving knowledge in order to help solve the world’s greatest challenges. Surely, we cannot do this without including everyone. People with disabilities and special needs give the world the opportunity to perceive and think differently, leading to a more innovative approach for the world’s current challenges. At MIT, we truly believe that diversity gives us the opportunity to better accomplish our mission.