Microsoft, AI even more accessible
Microsoft announces the launch of a five-year plan to improve the accessibility of artificial intelligence for people with disabilities. The plan includes three different areas, namely training, work and accessible technology, and is supported by the launch of a new fund under “AI for Accessibility”, with which assisted technologies become affordable even for those who cannot afford them.
Microsoft aims at training in the field, at financial support for the purchase of study, work and integration tools, at an implementation of software and features dedicated to increasing accessibility.
On the same Microsoft website it is possible to read that “AI can empower people with disabilities with tools that support independence and productivity, as technology rapidly changes the way we live, learn and work”.
It is therefore essential to ensure that people with disabilities have all the necessary tools to achieve maximum independence and productivity.
There are already tools aimed at a global use of technology, such as the Immersive Reader (used by more than 35 million people), the facilitated notes of PowerPoint and the high contrast mode of Teams. But now more tools will be added to these ones, and of course the news will also concern the most common software, such as those included in the Microsoft Office package. For example, Word, thanks to artificial intelligence, will detect and convert title styles for blind and visually impaired readers, while Excel will present a box that will help people move more easily in a spreadsheet.
Social networks too will see important news. By the end of the year, LinkedIn will have features that will allow automatic subtitles to be displayed in live broadcasts, as well as transcripts for corporate content and “dark” modes.
A space will be dedicated to training, and therefore to students with disabilities, given the importance of having accessible curricula and content. Quoting Microsoft, ” there is no better time than the present to reimagine inclusion and accessibility in education”, especially thanks to artificial intelligence, with which it will be possible to support a disabled student in the transition from high school to college, make it easier to learn to use Assistive Technology, provide flexible and personalized solutions, as well as provide accommodation designed for students with specific mental conditions or with cognitive disabilities.
The company has also announced initiatives in some American universities – University of Texas Austin, Georgia Tech and Florida A&M – with the aim of increasing the number of graduates with disabilities in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
There are also several incentives to help innovators to study and implement inclusive and accessible technological tools, to allow people with disabilities to be independent and take control of their life and future.