Plug and Pray?: AI and inclusion

As we improve accessibility in the built environment, it is important to make sure we create and maintain accessible digital designs. A report from the EU, Plug and Pray? outlines the opportunities for emerging tech and people with disability. The report highlights the need to be inclusive and provides practical recommendations.

People with disability are often early adopters of new tech, but these new ideas can also come with unintended barriers for users.

Front cover of Plug and Pray report

The title of the report is, Plug and Pray? A disability perspective on artificial intelligence, automated decision-making and emerging technologies.

New opportunities

New technologies are emerging every day and hold a promise of greater inclusion for people with disability. For example, devices and operating systems that automatically adjust to the behaviour needs of the user. This is most useful for people with sensory and cognitive conditions.

Many technologies are in early stage of development, so the promise of greater independence needs a note of caution. However, the speed of digitalisation and AI poses risks of creating barriers to use. Another issue is the potential for infringing human rights and widening the equality gap.

Some people have more than one functional disability. For example, speech recognition software not understanding commands by a person with Down syndrome. So design issues are multi-faceted.

Regulating AI

The European Disability Forum has a position paper on this topic. The Forum welcomes the EU’s proposal for regulating AI in the EU. Briefly, the important points to consider are:

  • Accessibility of AI-based technologies and practices;
  • Protect persons with disabilities from potential AI-induced harm;
  • Strong governance mechanisms, human rights impact assessment, and accessible feedback, complaints and redress mechanisms;
  • The same legal standards for European AI used outside of the EU;
  • Involvement of persons with disabilities and accessibility experts in the development of European and national AI policies, as well as promote their inclusion in AI  projects and technical development teams.

Artificial Intelligence: A framework

The European Disability Forum has several publications related to human rights and inclusion. However, the European Union failed to ensure binding accessibility requirements in their new Artificial Intelligence Act.

Infographic of the proportion of 272 different stakeholder groups.A discussion paper was released in 2019 to encourage conversations about AI ethics in Australia. This paper included a set of draft AI ethics principles. CUDA made a short submission to the discussion. The Australian AI Principles are ready for testing and are:

    • Human, social and environmental wellbeing
    • Human-centred values
    • Fairness
    • Privacy protection and security
    • Reliability and safety
    • Transparency and explainability
    • Contestability
    • Accountability

It is good to see human-centred values and human, social and environmental wellbeing now included. A closer look shows that older people, people with disability, people from diverse backgrounds and children are included in these principles by virtue of including human rights. The Fairness Principle includes mentions of Inclusion and Accessibility. You can find out more detail in a list of insights from the consultations

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