Tyler Weitzman, co-founder, president and head of AI at Speechify.
WHO estimates that by 2030 more than 2.5 billion people with disabilities will need one or more assistive technologies. almost a billion of them no access to these products. When you consider how globalization is increasing, it means that we are denying an entire community to enjoy the same services as everyone else.
However, as AI systems become more popular and complex, we are seeing more AI-powered solutions that can help people with mental, physical, visual or hearing disabilities perform tasks, both mundane and complex. I believe many companies can change the lives of people with disabilities by making AI technologies more widely accessible. Here are four ways companies using AI technology can (or are already doing) empowering people with disabilities.
1. Facilitate communication
AI speech 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 impairments, and text-to-speech technologies (or vice versa) can help people with brain injuries communicate or understand things more easily. One of those apps is Google’s Parrotan AI tool that allows people with a speech disorder to translate their distorted speech patterns into fluent conversations.
Companies can use these AI tools to create a more inclusive and collaborative work culture that includes employees regardless of disability. By providing these individuals with effective speech transcription tools, business leaders can help them participate equally in collaborative environments and share ideas across departments and teams.
Companies can also use AI-powered voice technology to improve their customer support. For example, AI chatbots can help your customer service teams communicate with customers with disabilities, better understand their needs, and fulfill them more effectively. This helps create better experiences, which can ultimately lead to higher customer loyalty.
2. Learning opportunities
Everyone should be able to use all services, regardless of their disability. AI technology can help ensure this inclusiveness. Just as subtitles help people with hearing impairments understand a movie, for example, braille helps visually impaired people read. You can now find AI powered braille teacher apps on the Internet that help people with disabilities learn Braille and access education at different levels. These apps use optical character recognition (OCR) to convert physical Braille characters into digital text.
Business leaders can leverage AI-powered solutions to create a culture of continuous learning and development. For example, you can implement personalized learning paths to help employees find relevant training and materials based on their skills. In addition, you can use AI tools to continuously provide employees with feedback based on their performance so that they can learn from their mistakes.
Leaders can also use AI tools to identify skills gaps within the company, learn more about an employee’s competencies, and develop targeted training programs to promote upskilling opportunities. There are even opportunities to use virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to provide employees with interactive learning experiences.
I believe it is imperative for companies to provide employees with disabilities with personalized learning experiences that help them acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in their day-to-day jobs. This ensures a diverse workforce that empowers everyone. With proper implementation, companies can nurture a growth-oriented mindset in their workforce without discrimination, which ultimately benefits the bottom line.
3. Promoting an independent lifestyle
AI opens 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 such as Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, which can schedule meetings, set reminders, and automate many voice tasks. Business leaders can also integrate AI-powered chatbots into various work-related apps to help employees with various tasks. The integration of Microsoft Bing with Skype is one such example: you can simply ask a question to Bing on Skype and you will receive an immediate answer.
Other AI tools that can ease workflow include robotic process automation (RPA), which can automate repetitive tasks; AI-integrated recommendation systems, which can be used to extract personalized suggestions from data; and AI computer vision applications, which can identify and interpret visual data through object detection, image recognition, facial recognition, and quality control. Businesses can also take advantage of AI-integrated cybersecurity tools to proactively detect threats and eliminate them in real time.
By using these tools, any employee, including those with disabilities, can streamline manual tasks and free up time to focus on more important work. This can also help leaders attract and retain diverse talent unfettered by the barriers they might otherwise face.
4. Connection to the outside world
In this fast-paced, globalized world, it is as important to people as ever feel connected to each other. Fortunately, AI technology has introduced new ways to help people with disabilities feel connected to their environment. For example, Microsoft’s Cortana can help visually impaired people navigate their devices using voice control. Programs like RogerVoice and Ava use AI to transcribe group conversations for the hearing impaired, including punctuation, the sender’s name, and important words from the user’s dictionary.
Businesses can deploy these AI-powered virtual assistants to help disabled individuals attend and schedule meetings, answer emails, and collaborate with others like everyone else. Translation tools are also available to help employees who speak different languages communicate with each other.
Inclusion regardless of ability
People with disabilities have the same right to enjoy life and achieve their professional goals as anyone else. They must be empowered to work independently, interact with teams and learn new skills. Fortunately, AI is helping business leaders improve accessibility and inclusiveness in their workplaces. Consider how you can integrate some of these tools into your workplace, not only to give your current employees more paths to success, but also to attract and retain a talented and diverse employee pool.