In simple terms, Artificial Intelligence is when machines are incorporated with human-like intelligence, to perform the tasks that we normally do. Today, the use of AI is very vast, ranging from smartphones, cars and social media to videogames, banking, online surveillance, etc. AI is all about finding simple yet effective solutions to make your day-to-day life easier and solve some common problems faced by people every day. AI has made huge leaps in many fields over the years. From recommending what to buy to showing us traffic on a road trip, AI is present everywhere. One such field is helping people with disabilities.
For some of us, being forced to stay home and work remotely via video conferences was a temporary reprieve from our daily commute. But for Jonathan Lee, Zoom was a life changer. Lee, 28, is a paraplegic who uses walking aids to get around, and being able to rely on video calls greatly reduced the challenges involved in getting to school. It's not just the elimination of a commute that made his life easier. When he's making his way to classes, it's impossible for Lee to walk and text while gripping onto his crutches, and if he doesn't have a headset he can't easily hold his phone up to speak either. Even when he has headphones on, Lee said today's speech recognition still isn't accurate enough to rely on. Full disclosure: Jonathan is my cousin who at the age of five lost the use of his legs due to arteriovenous malformation. He's one of many people who tech companies often forget to think about when designing products. Howard A. Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), said that in 2020, "one of the most important developments in general has been the explosion in use of video conferencing platforms." Rosenblum explained that, although most video conferencing platforms were "not really accessible to deaf and hard of hearing people" at the start of the pandemic, a number of them have made changes since to include both automated and professionally rendered captions, as well as letting users pin specific callers (like sign language interpreters) on their screens.
The country was awash with national pride. Union Jacks proudly flying at full mast across most British streets and a feverish party atmosphere, as we hosted arguably the best ever Olympic Games. During the games, we witnessed the prominent rise and rightful public recognition of the athleticism of disabled athletes, competing in the Paralympics and Special Olympics. Tanni Grey-Thompson, Ellie Simmonds and Lee Pearson are now just as likely to be debated as Britain's best Olympians from those games, alongside Mo Farah and Bradley Wiggins, amongst friends down the pub. Whatever stigma previously existed was smashed to bits, as our heroic athletes brought home gold medal after gold medal.
As many as one billion people--15 per cent of the world's population--have some form of disability, with around three per cent suffering from severe disabilities, according to World Bank. For most of these people, accessing modern technology and all it has to offer presents a host of difficulties. Even something as simple as using a cell phone can be impossible. Global Accessibility Awareness Day (May 16) aims to combat that. Launched in 2015, the day is designed to get everyone thinking and talking about improving digital access and inclusion for people with disabilities.
More than 20% of U.S. adults live with some form of disability, according to a September 2015 report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The latest generation of smartphones, tablets, and personal computers are equipped with accessibility features that make using these devices easier, or at least, less onerous, for those who have sight, speech, or hearing impairments. These enhancements include functions such as screen-reading technology (which reads aloud text when the user passes a finger over it); screen-flashing notification when a call or message comes in for the hearing impaired; and voice controls of basic functions for those who are unable to physically manipulate the phone or computing device's controls. Other technologies that can help the disabled have or are coming to market, and not all of them are focused simply on providing access to computers or smartphones. Irrespective of the accessibility provided, most market participants agree more needs to be done to help those with disabilities to fully experience our increasingly digital world.