Revolutionising Accessibility: The Role of AI in Assistive Technology

Share This Post

Revolutionising Accessibility: The Role of AI in Assistive Technology

AI already impacts every aspect of daily life, and none more so than in assistive technology. According to the World Health Organization, up to 2.5 billion people worldwide require one or more assistive products. And with the ageing population, that number is expected to increase to 3.5 billion by 2050. From employment to education and daily living, assistive technology supports individuals with disabilities in achieving their potential and participating in society.  

In the context of digital learning, AI tools can transform learning environments, enabling unprecedented accessibility and inclusivity.   

Today’s post explores how AI in assistive technology is reshaping digital learning. We take a look at the latest AI-powered accessibility tools and some of their challenges. Finally, we examine the future trends and innovations on the horizon.  

Understanding AI in Assistive Technology

Before diving into the details, let’s establish a clear understanding of AI in assistive technology.  

Artificial intelligence is the development of computer systems capable of performing tasks that usually require human intelligence. These tasks include learning from experience, pattern recognition, decision-making and adapting to new information.  

Assistive technology covers a wide range of products, services, or systems designed to help people with disabilities perform specific functions. It increases independence and provides opportunities for those with disabilities to access education and employment and fully participate in society.  

Assistive technology is not new. Common examples include wheelchairs, prosthetic limbs, hearing aids, and even reading glasses.  

However, the arrival of AI has taken assistive technology to a whole new level. AI uses algorithms and data-driven insights to enhance the power of assistive tools, making them more effective than ever.  

Here are some examples of AI technologies that enhance accessibility:  

Speech Recognition: AI-powered speech recognition systems allow people with mobility issues to control their devices using voice commands. From dictating text and issuing commands to navigating interfaces, speech recognition empowers users to interact with digital content more easily.  

Predictive Text: AI algorithms help individuals with dyslexia or motor disabilities by anticipating and suggesting words as they type. Predictive text speeds up communication and reduces the effort involved for these users. 

Discover more about AI for Assistive Technology with our latest Micro-Credential!

Start today

AI Applications in Assistive Technology

Let’s dive deeper into the latest AI applications in assistive technology.  

AI and Assistive Reading Tools

Literacy Tools: Grammarly and Microsoft 365 are valuable literacy support tools. Grammarly automatically detects and corrects spelling and grammatical errors. Furthermore, it makes suggestions for improving writing style, tone, and clarity. 

Microsoft 365 does much the same but also has an in-built immersive reader. This handy AI assistive reading tool helps readers by adjusting font size, spacing and highlighting text. Moreover, Microsoft 365 apps seamlessly work with screen readers and keyboards on most devices. 

Text-to-Speech: Famously associated with Stephen Hawking, these tools convert written text into spoken words. Text-to-speech is often used in tandem with optical character recognition (OCR). OCR uses computer vision techniques to convert printed text into searchable digital formats. Excellent examples here include Natural Reader and Sensus Access. 

AI Communication Aids

AI-based communication aids offer a lifeline for many people with speech impairments. Advanced speech recognition algorithms accurately interpret spoken words and convert them into text. Some platforms can even interpret hand gestures, eye movements and other non-verbal cues. Proloquo2Go is one of the leading platforms. 

AI in Mobility Aids

Assistive technology and AI are revolutionising mobility aids for those with physical challenges. These aids provide solutions for navigating both physical and digital worlds. AI-driven navigation systems help users map accessible routes and avoid obstacles in real-time. Our top pick of AI-driven mobility aids is LidSonic V2.0. 

Challenges and Ethical Considerations of AI in Assistive Technology

Make no mistake: Accessibility and AI innovation are a powerful combination. And while the game-changing possibilities are exciting, there are also some challenges to consider.  

Privacy and Data Security: AI in assistive technology often relies on personal data. Privacy concerns exist about collecting and using personal data to train AI models. Robust data protection methods, including encryption and secure storage, can mitigate the potential for misuse of personal information.  

Ethical AI in Assistive Tech: Another critical issue is AI ethics and ensuring AI-powered decision-making processes are unbiased and fair. AI relies on the quality of the underlying data and algorithms. If these are biased, then AI tools can inadvertently maintain or even worsen existing biases based on gender, race, or socioeconomic status.  

One way around this is to ensure you use only representative and diverse data sets. Furthermore, AI tools should be regularly monitored and reviewed to ensure fairness and address issues early.  

User-Centred AI Design: AI-powered assistive technologies should prioritise the needs of people with disabilities. Involving end-users in the design and testing process will ensure the solutions are fit for purpose and meet their requirements.  

AI for Disabilities: Future Trends and Innovations

Looking ahead is never easy, especially in the fast-changing field of AI. However. Here’s our take on some of the emerging trends to keep an eye on:  

Personalised Assistive Solutions: Advances in machine learning and natural language processing are creating new possibilities for personalised solutions tailored to individual needs.  

AR and VR: Augmented and virtual reality can enhance sensory experiences and provide information in real-time. We will likely see more integration with assistive technologies for navigation, education and communication. 

Mobile and Wearable Devices: Mobile apps and wearables will incorporate more customisable accessibility features. Voice assistants and gesture-based controls will improve usability. 

Gamification: Whether in rehabilitation or education, the future of AI in accessibility is likely to include gamification to motivate and encourage users.   

Assistive Technology and AI: Final Thoughts

These are exciting times. The arrival of AI in assistive technology is transforming accessibility. From assistive reading and communication tools to mobility aids, AI-powered technologies are empowering people with disabilities to live with more independence and confidence.  

However, before diving in headfirst, we must be mindful of the ethical considerations and challenges. User-centred design and ethical practices will ensure we stay on track.  

Innovation is the name of the game, and staying ahead of the curve in this dynamic area is challenging. Sign up for our continuing professional development program to keep on top of emerging trends and insights.  

Ready to learn more? Delve deeper into AI for assistive tech with our latest micro-credential.