Artificial Intelligence (AI) is increasingly being built into our digital world. And there are great opportunities to maximise AI to make the digital world more accessible for people with disabilities. Here, AbilityNet’s senior accessibility and usability consultant Joe Chidzik explores some of the possibilities and some of the ways AI is already changing things for disabled people.
1. AI could provide automatic sign language provision
The UK government requires websites to meet level AA of the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) standard. The requirement for sign language is an AAA requirement under WCAG (higher than AA) so it is very difficult to meet and unfortunately very few websites will do it. It is also difficult to provide sign language for multimedia. With an AI-based service, this could potentially happen automatically, which would be would be of great benefit for people who are deaf or have hearing loss.
Pic credit: Nvidia
2. AI already provides language translation and captioning for people who are deaf
Microsoft offers a free service through the Microsoft Translator app where audio is translated into other languages, and into text (for captions). People who have English as a second language benefit, as do people who are deaf or who have hearing loss.
Read more about Microsoft Translator app helping people who are deaf here.
3. AI provides automatic image recognition and alt text for people who are blind
One of the most common issues with accessibility is the lack of alternative text for images, which means people who are blind or have sight loss could be missing important information. Google’s Cloud Vision API uses neural networks to classify images, and to extract textual information.
Read related article: How AI is empowering people on the autism spectrum
There is a great deal of nuance when a web editor is selecting appropriate alt text, depending on the purpose the image is the image decorative, and so should it be ignored? If it’s information-rich, what information is the designer conveying?
We’re not sure if AI could crack these questions, but it would still be a useful step forward for it to automatically give some information when no one has entered information manually.
4. AI could help make information easier to understand for those with reading difficulties
The internet is full of an ever-growing amount of information. Distilling that information is a challenge that machine learning is working towards. Services are being developed to automatically summarise lengthy articles by creating short abstracts, or related headlines.
If done well – and it might take machines a while to learn to do it really well—this could be good for creating ‘easier-to-read’ content or snapshots of articles to help users with reading difficulties or those who feel easily overwhelmed by information.
Find out more about how AI could help us more quickly find the info we need, on Technology Review and here on Machine Learning Mastery.
5. AI could eventually make entire websites accessible!
One day AI might be so clever it can automatically make web pages entirely accessible. Until then, you can get your site checked by AbilityNet’s Accessibility team!