Tenth Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) May 20, 2021

Over the last few years there has been a general move towards seeing how AI can help individuals involved with digital accessibility overcome some of the barriers faced by those with disabilities.  The use of machine learning can also provide access via assistive technologies that have been improved to such an extent that they are needing less and less human intervention.  Examples include automatic captioning on videos such as those presented on YouTube and speech recognition.

The question is whether we have really moved on from Deque’s 2018 “Five Ways in Which Artificial Intelligence Changes the Face of Web Accessibility”.

These included: 

  • Automated image recognition,
  • Automated facial recognition,
  • Automated lip-reading recognition,
  • Automated text summarization,
  • Real-time, automated translations.

Visiting the GAAD events page  is often a good way to find out as many companies and organisations world wide share what they have achieved over the year, such as Google with its Machine Learning for Accessibility where they discuss Voice Access, Lookout, and Live Transcribe along with Sound Notifications for Android on May 19, 8:15 PM and Microsoft with its AI powered 365 event and others also listed on the Access 2 Accessibility site. 

There is an AI for Accessibility Hackathon (Virtual) on May 24th – June 29th 9-10am BST (Beirut, Lebanon) run by the ABLE CLUB American University Of Beirut.  This competition is aimed at rallying talents and fostering the regional development of the innovative entrepreneurship community related to artificial intelligence while also increasing social inclusiveness.

AccessiBe.com uses machine learning and computer vision technologies for image recognition and OCR as it scans web pages for accessibility issues, just as our Group Design Project team used similar technologies on Web2Access to highlight alt tags that were possibly a poor representation of an image on a website and where overlaps occurred when zoom was used as well as a visualisation of a site on a mobile phone if it failed WCAG guidelines.  

However, still to come is Apple’s use of AI for screen recognition on iOS 14, where it “uses on-device intelligence to recognize elements on your screen to improve VoiceOver support for app and web experiences” such as detecting and identifying “important sounds such as alarms, and alerts you to them using notifications.”

So let’s all celebrate the improvements in digital accessibility that AI can bring, whilst making sure that one day there will be no need to have an AccessiBe YouTube video about “why web accessibility matters.”  It will just be something we can take for granted!  Equal Access for All.