Artificial intelligence (AI) is the development of computer systems that are able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation. Many people may think about AI and consider a world with robots and futuristic technology, but for those with disabilities, AI technology opens up a world of accessibility.
AI has already made huge strides in the realm of communication, accessibility, and independent living for people with disabilities. Someone who has no disabilities may look at their Alexa or Echo as a convenient way to search for a recipe or play a song, but for someone with a visual disability, it’s a piece of technology that changes their life. This is just one example of how AI is making a major difference in many people’s lives.
Voice-assisted AI technology, like that in your Alexa, Echo, or smartphone, is one of the major advancements in communication. For those with visual impairments, this technology is paramount in how they communicate with their smart devices. There are also cognitive systems learning to describe images for people with visual impairments.
In addition to that, speech-to-text and text-to-speech technology allow more communication for those recovering from brain injuries, those affected by cerebral palsy, or people with other chronic conditions. Closed-captioning programs for those with difficulty hearing are also being perfected with AI algorithms. The power of AI is touching nearly every industry, but its ability to improve accessibility is increasing communication in more than just a convenient way.
There are a number of reasons why a person may need accommodations. Genetic conditions, complications during birth, and early life injuries can lead to an individual requiring assistive technology for most of their lives. In other instances, a person can acquire a disability — whether that be through accidents at the workplace leading to amputation or a traffic accident — and these people can feel overwhelmed by relearning to navigate day-to-day life. In either case, AI-assisted technology can streamline daily life and enable these people to live more independently.
Accessibility is a never-ending concern for many people in the disabled community. One step towards accessibility includes Microsoft announcing an AI for an accessibility program aimed at helping those with a disability with mobility, forging human connections, and navigating the workplace. Some of the AI-assisted technologies to help those with visual impairments are designed to recognize text on signs and scenery, making it possible for them to be more independently mobile.
Self-driving cars are another aspect of AI that is frequently discussed in regards to people with disabilities. The great thing about AI technology is how inclusive it tends to be, helping people requiring accommodations feel more included in tech advancements. Vehicles, like the Concept-I RIDE, though not self-driving, create more automotive independence for individuals who use a wheelchair.
Self-driving cars use AI to help many different people, including those with hearing and vision impairments, those who use a wheelchair, people with learning disabilities, and so on. Being able to leave the house and drive yourself to the store is a major advancement for those with a disability in terms of accessibility as well as independent living.
Enabling Independent Living at Home
Many people living with a disability rely on others for assistance moving around the home, cooking, or completing other daily tasks. AI-assisted technology, combined with advancements in the internet of things, has opened new possibilities in regards to accessibility. Smart home technology is enabling independent living with its AI capabilities.
There are many examples of how AI is changing the lives of many at home. Using voice technology to tell your home to turn on/off lights, adjust the heat or air conditioning, or to turn off the stove are all things that help make independent living easier. Smart home hubs can even learn your routine over time and anticipate your needs, turning on lights or other appliances as needed. Some systems can adjust the thermostat with weather forecast data in mind. These examples demonstrate how AI technology in smart home products is removing the obstacles of daily living.
AI technology in the home is also great in terms of safety. A smart home can be set up to tell if a person falls and can alert a loved one or emergency services to help. These safety concerns add another element to why independent living for those with a disability can be difficult. However, AI makes it possible for people to communicate, access their home, and feel safe independently.
Artificial intelligence will change the IT field, engineering industry, big data, and many other tech-related fields. However, AI will also change the world for people on a day-to-day basis. As AI advances, it will become more accessible to everyday people. AI assistants will become the norm, and AI technology will continue to be more efficient.
In terms of AI and those with disabilities, each advancement will be more inclusive. It will make bigger advancements in medical technology and help more people reach independence in ways they could have never imagined. What’s next for AI? More technology and more access to it for people with disabilities.
AI technology is changing the way that people live in one way or another. Those changes aren’t just convenient — they help us to communicate, access more things, and to live more independently. From language recognition software, to self-driving cars, to smart home technology, to the technological advancements on the horizon, AI is helping those with disabilities have more agency in their lives in a profound way.
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