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. 

Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) 2019

easy to read logo

To celebrate the Global Accessibility Awareness Day, the European Disability Forum made their report “Plug and Pray – A disability perspective on artificial intelligence, automated decision-making and emerging technologies (Accessible PDF)” available to all. As the team had some involvement with the report it is exciting to see it now in print and in an Easy to Read version.

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. “

But as Shadi Abou-Zahra said in the latest EDF news letter on the subject of ‘Technology is for People, Not the Other Way Round’

” As technology continues to evolve at lightning speed, we also see the opportunities and challenges continue to multiply. A friend of mine was recently using a mobile app that uses artificial intelligence techniques to recognise objects and text in front of the camera. He was using it to orient himself in a hotel he had just checked into. The app explained the layout of the hallways and read out the door numbers on the signs so that he could find his room as a blind person traveling alone for business. This is mind blowing considering that mainstream deployment and use of artificial intelligence is only in its early stages.”

There will be more presentations and discussions around AI and Inclusion at the AAATE 2019 Conference on Global Challenges in Assistive Technology Research, Policy & Practice 27 – 30 August, Bologna (Italy)