Whilst exploring the ideas around digital accessibility and web accessibility we must not forget the wide range of technologies that come under the heading of Information Communication Technologies (ICT) and this includes Assistive Technologies (AT).
Many organisations think of AT as being “any information and communication technology product, device, equipment and related service used to maintain, increase, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with specific needs or disabilities.” This definition comes from an International Telecommunication Union Model ICT Accessibility Report (2014) . Functional capabilities also include executive functioning so we must not forget how planning, organisation and memory can be supported, reduction in stress and anxiety to improve mental health etc. Now by collecting data about all the issues that can arise we can widen the scope of asssitive technologies to enable them to further enhance inclusion. Think of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices (used by those who may not be able to speak clearly or are nonverbal) offering easy to reach symbol choices based on the location of a user and the type of tasks they are undertaking. An early example of this type of technology is the Livox app.
Working with all forms of media have resulted in huge strides in image recognition supporting text descriptions and Mike was presenting at the Media and Learning Conference in Leuven on June 5-6 and presented innovations around the accessibility of video for learning.
He described how access can be enhanced by using current technologies and discussed the potential for AI to improve the availability of accessible media.
In the last few years ITU has been behind many initiatives involving Artificial Intelligence and ICT Accessibility with summits such as the AI for Good Global Summit and working on standards related to the ethical issues around AI and Inclusion.
Being aware of the impact AI and ICT was having on us all, members of the team became involved with a document produced by the European Disability Forum called ‘Plug and Pray‘. This report looked into the affect that some of the technologies being developed in the AI arena could have on individuals with disabilities.
“Some conclusions of the report include:
- Teams working on new technologies are not diverse enough. Industry needs to assure that their teams reflect diversity of general population;
- Accessibility and principles of Universal Design should be part of the curricula when teaching design, computer sciences, user experience and other related subjects.
- Organisations of persons with disabilities and organisations working on digital rights need to work closer together. “