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37th Annual CSUN Assistive Technology Conference Has Concluded

A11y, AI & Machine Learning: Opportunities & Threats

Date & Time
Thursday, March 17, 2022 - 4:20 PM PST  
Platinum 6 (LIVESTREAM)  
Emerging technologies of artificial intelligence, big data and machine learning hold great promise in assisting people with disabilities in living independently. At the same time, the technologies themselves are morally neutral and could be used to discriminate against people with disabilities, unintentionally or overtly. Technology has advanced in leaps and bounds offering unprecedented tools to help people with disabilities. Artificial intelligence has advanced accessibility immeasurably. Optical character recognition allows blind users to read independently. OCR devices developed in the 1970s took up the better part of a room; today any user with a smartphone can scan the text before them and hear it read aloud. Voice recognition technology has become invaluable to people with mobility impairments, allowing them to talk to the computer, navigate websites, dictate letters and control AI helpers. Machine learning has even enabled voice recognition to be trained to help users with speech impediments. The applications of voice recognition in helping people with disabilities are only limited by the imagination. Machine learning and big data allow AI to extract meaning from images and video, which can be applied to help people with disabilities. This is already being used to provide alternate text to images on the web. But AI has also been developed that can read lips at a higher accuracy rate than human lip readers. This technology can be used to increase the accuracy of automatic AI captioning in instances where the speaker is shown in the video, or it could be adapted to smartphones. CAPTCHA techniques, which differentiate real users from troublesome bots on the web, have been a recurring obstacle for users with disabilities. As the AI bots get smarter the CAPTCHA techniques have become more challenging, creating barriers to people with disabilities. The idea of using facial recognition technology with a web cam has been put forth as an option to get around this barrier. AI can now comprehend text at a sufficient level that complex text with big words can be effectively summarized or reduced so that it is more easily understood by people with cognitive disabilities. This technology also serves people who are reading in a second language, as well as simply people in a hurry. This is all very promising, but there is also a dark side. Technology itself is amoral and presents various risks depending on who yields it. New technology offers the promise of providing robot care givers to help the elderly and users with disabilities with getting around and completing daily tasks independently. But it doesn’t take much imagination to take a robot initially developed to provide care and use it for purposes less noble.  
  • Information & Communications Technology
  • Healthcare & Rehabilitation
  • Research & Development
  • Legal
  • Administration & Business Support
Audience Level
Session Summary (Abstract)
Discussion on new technologies impacting people with disabilities, both good and bad, including innovations on the horizon and around the corner presenting promise and risk.  
Session Type
General Track  
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Machine Learning (ML)
  • Emerging Technologies
  • Information & Communications Technology (ICT)
  • Law, Compliance, and Policy
  • Research


  • Christopher Land

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