From the Editor

What is Artificial Intelligence (AI) and why is it important for our loved ones with disabilities? If you have ever used Netflix, ChatGPT, Global Positioning System (GPS), or Google Translate, you have experience with AI.


According to Coursera, “Artificial intelligence (AI) is the theory and development of computer systems capable of performing tasks that historically required human intelligence, such as recognizing speech, making decisions, and identifying patterns.”

“At the simplest level, machine learning allows computer systems to perform tasks like making movie recommendations, identifying the fastest way to travel to a destination, or translating text from one language to another.” Adapted from What Is Artificial Intelligence? Definition, Uses, and Types

For people with disabilities, AI has the potential to ease communication, provide learning opportunities, promote an independent lifestyle, and connect to the outside world.

Read on for more information on AI.

Hope you are staying warm and finding ways to enjoy the winter.


Best to you and yours,

Maria Schaertel

AI Can Level the Playing Field in Everyday Life

By Pam Brown, Starbridge Information Technology Manager

Data and knowledge are important in our day-to-day lives. Information technology has been instrumental in leveling the playing field; developments in technology allow inclusivity for people with disabilities.

Many system-based applications such as video communication, and the iPhone strobe light notification, have been instrumental in allowing independence for the hearing impaired. Screen readers and speech recognition are helpful for people with visual challenges.  

The AI factor added to these types of technologies will help people with disabilities complete everyday tasks and achieve independence.  

AI is a power tool. AI can empower people, however, we must make the technology accessible to all.

Businesses Empower People with Disabilities through AI Technology

Adapted from Empowering Individuals with Disabilities through AI Technology

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 2.5 billion people with disabilities will need one or more assistive technologies in 2030. Yet almost a billion of them can’t access these products. Considering how globalization is increasing, this means we are denying an entire community from enjoying the same services as everyone else.

As AI systems have grown in popularity and complexity, however, we are seeing more AI-powered solutions that can help people with mental, physical, visual or hearing challenges perform tasks, both everyday and complex. By making AI technologies more widely accessible, many businesses can change the lives of individuals with disabilities.

Here are four ways businesses using AI technology can empower (or are already empowering) people with disabilities.

1. Easing Communication

AI voice technologies, such as Siri, Alexa, and Echo, help make communication easier for people with disabilities. These programs can describe text and images to people with visual disabilities, and text-to-speech (or vice versa) technologies can help people with brain injuries communicate or understand things more easily. Businesses can also use AI-powered voice technology to improve their customer support.

2. Learning Opportunities

Everyone should be able to access any service, regardless of their abilities. AI technology can help ensure this inclusivity. For example, just like subtitles let people with hearing impairments understand a movie, braille helps people with visual impairment read. You can now find AI-powered braille tutor apps on the internet that assist people with disabilities in learning braille and accessing education at different levels.

Business leaders can use AI-powered solutions to create a continuous learning and development culture. For example, businesses can implement personalized learning paths to help employees find training courses and materials according to their skills.

3. Promoting an Independent Lifestyle

AI is opening doors for people with disabilities to live independent personal and professional lifestyles. For example, many AI programs help businesses create effective and efficient workflows with virtual assistants like Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, which can schedule meetings, set reminders, and automate many voice tasks. Other AI tools that can ease workflow include robotic process automation (RPA), which can automate repetitive tasks.

4. Connection to the Outside World

In this fast-paced, globalized world, it’s as important as ever for people to feel connected with each other. AI technology has introduced new ways to help people with disabilities feel linked to their surroundings. For example, Microsoft’s Cortana can assist visually impaired individuals in navigating their devices through voice control. Businesses can employ AI-powered virtual assistants to help people with disabilities attend and schedule meetings, answer emails and collaborate with others, like everyone else.

Inclusion Regardless of Ability

People with disabilities have the same right to enjoy life and succeed at their professional goals as everyone else. They should be empowered to work independently, communicate across teams and learn new skills. Fortunately, AI has been helping business leaders enhance accessibility and inclusivity in their workplaces. Businesses incorporate some of these tools in the workplace, not only to give current employees more paths to success but also to attract and retain a talented and diverse employee pool.

How AI Can Benefit People with Autism Spectrum Disorder

By Zhi Zheng, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Kate Gleason College of Engineering, Rochester Institute of Technology

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is increasingly being designed and studied to support children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in various ways. Driving by machine learning as the core, AI is often presented as a system in the form of wearable devices, humanoid robots, virtual reality, or computer games. While AI holds promise in supporting children with ASD, ethical considerations and data privacy must be carefully addressed. This requires AI to be integrated into a well-rounded approach that includes expert guidance and user feedback.

One of the most popular applications is to improve screening and diagnosis, especially for early detection. With the help of speech recognition, large language models, body motion tracking, facial expression recognition, physiological arousal detection, etc., machine learning models can analyze behavioral patterns to identify potential signs of ASD at an early stage, enabling timely intervention and support.

Equally important is AI for personalized learning and intervention. New AI systems can observe and recognize the unique needs and preferences of each child. These platforms can adapt the difficulty level of content, pacing, and teaching methods based on the individual's learning style, promoting a more effective and engaging learning process. AI can generate scenarios, simulate social situations, and provide feedback on appropriate social behaviors, helping children build confidence and navigate social situations more effectively.

Additional Resources

Ed Department Warns Schools Not to Overlook Assistive Technology in IEPs

Designing Generative AI to Work for People with Disabilities (the author has Multiple Sclerosis)

Artificial Intelligence in Health and Human Services

The Promise and Perils of Artificial Intelligence for People with Disabilities



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