3 Incredible Ways AI is Helping People with Disabilities in 2021

3 Incredible Ways AI is Helping People with Disabilities in 2021

By now we have all used AI-powered voice assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant. These already-seasoned technologies are growing smarter with each update and are becoming more capable. From calling an Uber to checking the weather outside, they can get a lot done for people who know how to use them.

Now, imagine someone with visual impairments getting access to tools like these. An AI assistant that can literally get things done for them.

While this example does a good job of explaining how AI is transforming the lives of people with disabilities, it barely scratches the surface of all the AI-enabled innovations out there that are doing similarly incredible things.

The following are 3 of the most promising ones that you probably didn’t know about.

Technology that Converts Facial Expressions to Text or Voice

For someone with a speech disability being part of a social group can be extremely challenging. Existing technologies such as on-screen keyboards need users to type individual letters using their eye movement. This process is slow and often the moment is lost when interacting in a group situation. Project Euphonia is part of the Google Research initiative that’s aiming to overcome this hurdle. One of the technologies it’s working on involves using machine learning to map different facial expressions to different words. Therefore, sounds of words such as “Yes”, “No”, “Boo”, “Yaay” is played out loud whenever a recognized facial expression is detected.

While the word choices are still limited, speech-impaired individuals can use the technology to quickly react to a conversation.

AI Technology That’s Making Websites Accessible Instantly!

One of the major hurdles of making websites accessible to people with disabilities is that it usually took a lot of web development time and effort to transform each website.

What that meant was website owners saw little benefit in transforming their websites to make them compliant with the latest web accessibility guidelines such as the WCAG2.1. Apart from the cost, the website downtime required to make such a transformation was also a key demotivating factor.

All this has now changed, thanks to AI. Technologies such as the one developed by accessiBe can scan any website and fix the accessibility challenges almost instantly.

It scans the websites to understand all the elements in the website and then it starts making modifications. For example, it scans images and adds descriptive alt texts that make them compatible with screen readers used by visually impaired users.

The technology is not just reserved for the visually impaired. It creates a layer on top of the existing website to provide an accessibility interface for people with various kinds of disabilities. People prone to epileptic seizures can click a button and disable all the flashing elements on the website and thus be safe while browsing it. Roni from the accessiBe team explains how the technology works in a short YouTube video.

The major advantage of an AI-powered solution to make websites compatible with ADA and WCAG guidelines is that it’s fast and affordable. This, in turn, will ensure more and more website owners take that step to make their websites accessible.

Independent Living Made Possible with IoT

For people suffering from mobility issues performing everyday tasks such as cooking and cleaning can be immensely challenging. Many of these individuals still rely on caregivers to navigate through their day.

Smart homes powered by AI voice recognition that helps people to connect with IoTs is now making independent living possible for individuals with disabilities.

Things like turning the lights on or off are just the starting point of what can be achieved. People with disabilities can use this technology to change the thermostat settings, turn the stove on or off, control their televisions, ask their smart Roomba devices to clean, and much more.

Smart homes also offer much in the way of safety. Devices can be set up to monitor the perimeter and alert the occupants if there is an intruder. Smart wearables can also alert emergency services automatically following a health crisis. Safety systems such as fire alarms and smoke detectors can also be set up to send notifications to smartphones to help people who are hard of hearing.

As the number of IoTs such as smart smoke detectors, door monitors, sprinkler systems, and others becomes more common, advances in AI technology can help users to communicate with them all in a seamless manner.

Artificial intelligence made a lot of promises when it first came into the scene which resulted in a fair bit of skepticism. Some were even worried about how the “machines are going to rise” and become our supreme overlords.

With AI solving some of the most fundamental problems for people who need it the most, it’s definitely headed in the right direction.