RESEARCH COLLABORATIONS

Social inclusion: AI to improve tech accessibility for disabled minorities

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Research explores how AI can champion social inclusion for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds who are living with disabilities.


By U2B Staff 

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The Western Sydney University has been awarded a $700,000 linkage grant to investigate how future Artificial Intelligence (AI) developments and policy can ensure social inclusion for Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds who are living with disabilities.

This linkage grant was awarded by the Australian Research Council (ARC) to explore how AI can ensure that people living with disabilities, who are at risk of marginalisation will not be excluded from digital technologies they rely on for vital support.

This project aims to provide support for over one million Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. These individuals are at risk of exclusion due to their ineligibility for disability and multicultural services given the inherent constraints of these technology based services.

Persons from this group and who have disabilities in particular, significantly rely on digital information systems, devices and platforms to secure their economic, social and cultural inclusion.

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Due to the complex nature of the AI on which these technologies operate on, these technologies have ballooned in complexity, thus making it increasingly inaccessible to this group of slightly more complex end users.

The areas of improvement that have been identified are to develop future AI that will be more adaptable, accessible and affordable.

The ARC’s Linkage program is designed to promote national and international research partnerships and transfer knowledge, skills and ideas.

Lead researcher from the Institute for Culture and Society and School of Social Sciences, Karen Soldatic explained the significance of the research, “This project brings together people with disabilities from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, key social services, public galleries and the technology industry, to better understand the societal impacts of technologies of automation.”

Soldatic added, “Artificial intelligence, robotics and other autonomous systems can foster inclusive participation, or alternatively erect new barriers of exclusion.”

She added that the goal of the team is to provide pathways for communities to voice their aspirations and their criticisms towards the platforms that are now integral to everyday life.

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The grant includes contributions by partner organisations including Western Sydney Migrant Resource Centre, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, Gallery Lane Cove + Creative Studios, Your Side Australia and Microsoft Corporation.

The subject of disability and technological exclusion is being increasingly discussed.

Research shows that there are pressing challenges that AI, data, automation, and the next wave of internet and mobile technologies will pose to the disabled community, and in particular those from minority groups.

According to the World Institute On Disability, the largest constraint for people with disabilities from different cultures and language backgrounds, is being left behind by assistive technologies such as auto-captioning with AI for the hearing impaired and as well as facilities to improve language comprehension designed for people with cognitive disabilities.

Prior research has also found that AI-based face-recognition systems have performed poorly for images of people with darker skin, and automatic speech recognition has more difficulty identifying the speech of women or people with non-native accents, all of which are discriminative against people from culturally diverse backgrounds.

These challenges are the key elements that should be explored in discussions regarding digital inclusion and digital rights of disabled minorities.