This is a RePost of the original AI in AT posting by Joseph Kwan and Joyce Lo.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Assistive Technology (AT) are different technologies that have been increasing in importance in recent years. AI is when computer systems perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as recognizing speech, identifying objects, learning, making decisions, and solving problems. AT is generally defined as any equipment, product, or service that can make society more inclusive. AI advancements improve the use of AT and has significant potential in enhancing inclusion, independence, and participation for people with disabilities.
AI in AT explores how AI and AT work together to support people with disabilities. The combination of these two emerging technologies help society become more inclusive and promote opportunities in school, home, work, and community settings.
The World Health Organization estimates that one billion people currently need AT, with this number increasing to two billion by 2050. Yet, only one in ten users have access to AT, creating a significant market gap and need. AI enhances AT user experiences by improving speed, accuracy, and accessibility. The field of incorporating AI with AT is relatively new and ample opportunities exist for new and exciting ventures to improve people’s lives.
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6 responses to “Assistive Technologies”
AT in the classroom is the universal design that has the potential to champion for all learners and can target expectationalites. Take for example Read and Write Gold, an AT program used to improve reading and writing skills that I have used in multiple grades. I found this program useful not only for students with IEPs to accomodate for an exceptionality but for all students to augment their learning experience with helpful tools that support research in literacy. With AI to amplify the AT experience, there will limitless possibilities to address a range of learner needs.
Ironically we try to REMOVE assistive tech in ESL classrooms to actively measure students’ unassisted language ability
As an ESL teacher myself, I do agree with you that AT’s should be used by students who have specific needs. If it were to be used by all of the students, I would wonder how much of their language ability they would actually enhance or improve. AT’s should be used as a tool to even the playing field, meaning, to give all students in the classroom an opportunity to feel included in the academic tasks and an opportunity to succeed academically.
I got introduced to AT when I was studying in the Certificate of Inclusive Education at McGill University. At first I asked myself “How can AT help me create a more inclusive ESL classroom for my students?”. After speaking to colleagues of mine, I was educated upon the different AT’s that are available and how they can be included into my classroom. I am fortunate enough that in my school board each student is provided with a Google Chromebook. WordQ is a software that helps students read and write better. Students that use this software usually dyslexic. It is important for students with specific needs to have access to AT’s in order for all to have an equal opportunity to succeed academically and feel included at school and outside environments.
Universal design and assistive technologies should be one of those areas in which technology should be leveraged to its full potential and capacity. New and old spaces and teaching practices can be improved with a lens towards accessibility and inclusion. More inclusive design usually means simpler (more stripped down, core functional) and broader design (serving the most groups), which ends up being better design in general.
I also feel institutions could do a better job of educating faculty on the different types of AT that are available. When I was teaching post-sec, I would get at last 2-4 accommodations letters per course, and each of them included a diverse array of AT available to students. However, the institution did not provide part-time faculty with a lot of resources to understand what those ATs were or how to adapt the class to them better. I hear now, post-pandemic, that number has increased significantly due to numerous stresses. I wonder how that is affecting requests for AT.
The use of AI in AT is opportunistic for me professionally as I am an assistive technology teacher and see the positive benefits that AI has for improving AT often. For example, AI has been a driving factor in making speech-to-text and text-to-speech technologies more useful. When I first started trying to use dictation in my personal and professional life, it was incredibly frustrating trying to dictate anything – even if I carefully drafted my message in my head before speaking and enunciated my intended message would usually not come out correctly. In the last few years AI has supported development of dictation tools so that we can dictate efficiently even on most cell phones. Certain AT software (e.g. Dragon) has built in AI that can be trained to correctly recognize dictation from people who have speech disorders. Similarly in text-to-speech AT, AI has contributed to decrease the “robot voice” effect and support people who are non speaking in using their AT to communicate more effectively. AI can support AT in so many different ways, so this topic is also opportunistic due to its breadth of applications.