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Accessibility for all is the event last Nov. 30 at Microsoft House in Milan that showed how #AI can foster the inclusion of people with disabilities in the world of work

Indeed, accessibility is an issue that has become increasingly important in recent years, both as an ethical and practical matter. Companies that want to be competitive and innovative in the global marketplace must value the diversity of talents, skills, experiences, and perspectives of all people who work in an organization, regardless of their gender, age, origin, disability, or any other characteristic.

HERE the link to the official Microsoft article

Disability is a condition that affects a significant portion of the Italian population, but let’s have a look at the official data…

According to ISTAT data to date there are about 3 million people with disabilities, or 5.2 percent of the total population in Italy. However, there is no reliable and up-to-date data on the number of people with disabilities in our country, which makes it very difficult to address the problem effectively!

Accessibilità per tutti

People with disabilities often face difficulties in accessing the world of work, whether due to physical barriers or cultural and social barriers. Going back to ISTAT data, the employment rate of people with disabilities is 16.7 percent, compared with 58.8 percent for the total population. The most represented sector is services, with 72 percent of workers with disabilities.

A shocking fact, so to foster the inclusion of people with disabilities in the world of work, action is needed on several levels: regulatory, educational, organizational and technological. In particularly, innovative technologies can be an opportunity to create a more accessible, facilitating and empowering work environment for all.

Generative Artificial Intelligence, or the set of AI-based solutions, can offer tools to support, facilitate, and empower people with disabilities. We now report on just a few examples of how generation through AI can help create a more inclusive and innovative work environment for people with disabilities:

  • speech synthesis and speech recognition can help those with visual or motor disabilities interact with digital devices and applications, turning text into voice and vice versa (text to speech / speech to text)
  • machine translation and subtitles can help people with hearing or language disabilities communicate with people who speak different languages, making audiovisual content accessible.
  • computer vision and facial recognition can help people with cognitive or emotional disabilities interpret people’s expressions and emotions, improving their social skills.
  • image and text generation can help people with creative or artistic disabilities express their ideas and create original content, stimulating imagination.

As enterprises we need to invest in these technologies however keeping in mind certain ethical and regulatory principles, such as transparency, accountability, security and protection of personal data. In addition, we must actively involve people with disabilities in the design, development, and evaluation of AI-based solutions to ensure that they are actually useful and responsive to their needs and expectations.

Accessibilità per tutti

Some of the initiatives and projects Microsoft is pursuing in this area were shown during the event, with the goal of making technology accessible to everyone, really everyone. During the morning, the role of companies and institutions in promoting a culture of inclusion and accessibility was explored, starting with a change in perspective.

One sentence struck us particularly:

“Don’t ask people with disabilities what disabilities they have, ask them the skills they have.”

This is not only a legal requirement, but an opportunity for growth and innovation for all.

Written by Marco La Camera – AI Tech Lead e Alice Pastore – Marketing Manager in CloudiaResearch