How Artificial Intelligence (AI) Helps Improve Accessibility

In today’s digital world, information is power. But for people with disabilities, access to that information is often challenging. People with disabilities may face many barriers in accessing online content—including websites, articles, and videos.

But imagine a world where everyone, regardless of their abilities, can use technology and easily access information. That’s where Artificial intelligence (AI) comes in!

AI helps make things more accessible, which means it makes technology work better for everyone. AI helps people with disabilities access information and ideas more easily. By making information more accessible AI makes technology work better for all.

This article will show you how.

What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Let’s give you a high-level explanation of what AI actually is and how it’s making the internet more user-friendly and accessible for everyone, regardless of their abilities.

Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is a fascinating area of computer science that aims to create smart machines capable of tasks that usually need human brains. This includes things like understanding spoken or written language, recognizing patterns, solving complex problems, and learning from past experiences and mistakes. It's also about computer programs that can process large amounts of data quickly and accurately.

AI can recognize objects and faces, read out text, and assist in navigation—making life easier, especially for people with disabilities.

Think about the internet. It’s a treasure trove of information. But here's the thing—not everyone has the same ease of access to this treasure. Individuals with disabilities, such as those affecting sight, hearing, or mobility, often find significant obstacles in their path when they try to access or navigate the web.

This is where AI steps in like a superhero, working to make the internet more accessible and helping to improve accessibility—ensuring everyone can access, explore, and make use of the vast resources available online, regardless of their physical abilities. It's a game-changer, leveling the digital playing field and making the web a more inclusive space.

In a nutshell, AI is all about creating smart machines that make our lives easier, more efficient, and more interesting.

Examples demonstrating how AI improves accessibility

People with disabilities, such as visual, auditory, or mobility impairments, often face significant barriers when trying to access and navigate the web. Here are a few great examples we found where AI is helping to bridge the accessibility gap

Visual assistance from AI

Imagine a world where pictures and words come alive, describing everything around you. For those with visual impairments, AI-driven tools such as screen readers and text-to-speech software can interpret and vocalize text on a screen, making written content accessible. Furthermore, image recognition technologies can describe images, videos, and even live scenes to visually impaired users.

Alternative text or “alt text” as it’s commonly known is a big part of accessibility for visually impaired people. AI can be used to automatically create alt texts for images and videos, to quickly provide alternative text descriptions for websites. This makes websites more accessible for screen readers to help interpret the image and explain to the person behind the screen what is being shown on-screen.


AI generates alt texts for 10,000 popular GIFs to make memes accessible

In 2023, popular GIF platform GIPHY partnered with a digital accessibility provider to create alt text captions for 10,000 of its most frequently shared GIFs. It may not seem like it, but this was a huge move for accessibility, as it made the video-and-meme-based language of the internet more accessible to users who are blind. Without alt text, GIFs cannot be read—making them inaccessible to millions of people who rely on assistive technology.

Another example is AI-assisted closed captioning and subtitling, which uses machine learning algorithms to generate more accurate captions and translations—improving the accessibility of multimedia content for those with visual or hearing impairments.

Netflix uses AI to create custom captions for visual and audio assistance

A great example of AI and accessibility intersecting was when Netflix launched custom captions and contrasting backgrounds to make the text stand out for people with poor vision. 

AI for live transcription

Captioning can also be used for live transcription. With tools like Google Live Transcribe.

Live Transcribe transcribes speech in real time to your Android screen, making it easier for people with hearing impairments to engage in a conversation. The built-in algorithm identifies sounds and lets you know what’s happening around you—for example birds chirping or the wind whistling.

Live Transcribe was created in partnership with Gallaudet University, a premier university for deaf and hard-of-hearing people. Did you know Gallaudet University and AT&T partnered together to create the first 5G-connected football helmet? 

Read the full story in this article

According to Google, Live Transcribe is already installed on Pixel phones and select other Android phones. 

To turn on Live Transcribe, follow these steps.If you’re interested in other apps that assist the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing, check out this article

AI assists individuals with mobility issues

For individuals with mobility issues, AI can enable hands-free navigation of the internet. For example, voice command technology allows users to navigate websites, type, and perform other tasks without needing to use a keyboard or mouse.

AI is bridging the accessibility gap, but it still has a ways to go

Ai is cool and rapidly changing how we will interact with the world around us. But it’s not perfect. Sometimes, it can make mistakes or have inherent biases. For example, AI might not always understand different accents or languages, which can be a challenge for some people. We need to be careful and make sure everyone gets the same chance to use AI.

But the future is exciting! AI will keep getting smarter, making it even easier for everyone to use technology—bridging the accessibility gap. By making the web more navigable and information more digestible for individuals with disabilities, AI is promoting digital inclusivity and equality.

It's an exciting time as we continue to see advancements in this field, bringing us closer to a more accessible internet for all.

Source: About