What Are Assistive Technologies?
The United States Assistive Technology Act of 1998 defines assistive technology, sometimes called, adaptive technology, as any “product, device, or equipment, whether acquired commercially, modified or customized, that is used to maintain, increase, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.”
According to the WHO, assistive technology refers to any product that helps maintain or improve an individual function. Common examples include hearing aids, wheelchairs, eyeglasses, and prosthetic limbs.
Like all technology, these products have evolved over time, both in capability and in adoption and use. Advances such as speech to text, predictive text, and spell checkers are just a few examples of tools initially developed to assist people with a disability. Today, these features often come standard in all personal computers and mobile devices, due to the incredible benefits that impact all users.
A Global Issue
The WHO estimates that over a billion people worldwide are living with some form of disability, of which 360 million have moderate to profound hearing loss. Although there is a great need for assistive technology to bridge the gaps and help these individuals maximize their quality of life, only one in 10 people with disabilities have access to these kinds of life-changing products.
Assistive technologies help solve general accessibility, transportation and communication problems, and allow more people to live independently. Beyond the human factor, there is also an economic impact to consider. According to a report by Coherent Market Insights, the market for assistive technologies is expected to be worth over $26 billion by 2024.
The Transformative Impact of AI
Incorporating the latest advancements in AI into assistive technologies accelerates their development and enhances their capabilities with powerful features. New tools that build on progress in the field of machine learning bring enormous possibilities for supporting and assisting individuals with disabilities in their everyday lives.
AI profoundly improves accessible technology in many areas, including employment, everyday life, and communication. The latter is particularly significant for providing access to information as well as opportunities. As society continues to rely more and more on digital communication, AI-enabled tools prevent individuals from being left behind, regardless of how a person hears or speaks.
Advances such as speech-to-text transcription and captioning are already helping people with vision, hearing, and learning disabilities. Based on neural networks, this technology utilizes AI-enhanced automatic speech recognition engines, paired with human-augmented refinement. The corrections made by professional transcribers are fed back through machine learning technologies to continuously improve accuracy.
One of the most successful applications of this type of technology is in higher education. AI-enhanced transcription and captioning tools help students with hearing impairments as well as those who are not native speakers of the language of instruction fully participate in class and be more engaged with course materials. These technologies augment the learning experience for all students and enable new possibilities for better instruction and engagement.
Innovation For Disability is Innovation For Everyone
When technology is developed to address the most complex of needs, it ends up benefiting everyone. Many of the technologies that were initially developed for people with disabilities have gone on to become widely used by the general population. AI innovations such as image recognition, speech-to-text, chatbots, and self-driving vehicles are technologies that benefit all individuals, as well as society as a whole.
This principle makes sense from a product engineering perspective as well. Designing with accessibility in mind means creating a product that is more intuitive, feature-rich and, ultimately, able to reach and impact more people. By enhancing capabilities and leveling the playing field, AI helps assistive technology reach parts of the world where there are more people living with disabilities and fewer support services and resources to address them.
Verbit at the CSUN Assistive Technology Conference
Interested in learning more about AI-driven transcription and captioning technology? Verbit’s smart solution harnesses the power of artificial and human intelligence to generate the most detailed speech-to-text files, providing over 99% accuracy and the fastest turnaround time in the industry. Stop by booth #1112 to learn how organizations can provide equal access to course content, increase engagement, and boost academic success for all students.