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Tamara Martinez
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Artificial Intelligence and Accessibility

22
Oct
2023

While Artificial Intelligence keeps gaining relevance, and its applications keep expanding into real-life fields and activities, one question remains: what does the convergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Digital Accessibility look like? In the Digital Transformation landscape, there's no doubt that this blending can revolutionize how teams and businesses approach Product Development to ensure inclusivity for all users from the beginning of all projects. 

Long were the days in which Digital Accessibility was a business option. Today, users and markets expect full inclusivity and accessibility for digital products and services in terms of regulatory requirements and moral standards. A solid reasoning behind these demands relies on encouraging digital spaces where everyone can participate in full and independent ways. From visual to motor impairments, accessibility goes from website navigation to physical interactions with tech devices. Yet, in the aim to make universally used tech, what role does Artificial Intelligence play in Digital Accessibility? And what is AI's potential role for future user-centric development?

As we know, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become the powerhouse to reshape how we interact with technology.  What's more, AI's ability to adjust, understand, and foresee human behavior, needs, and desires has the potential to be at the core of crafting devices, products, and services that cater to a wide spectrum of abilities. For instance, adaptive algorithms have the power to interpret user preferences to optimize interfaces in real time! Can you imagine real-time interactive interfaces where elements from font sizes and color contrast are considered from scratch to ensure seamless experiences for everyone? Mind-blown! 

Variable interfaces are only the beginning of the future Artificial Intelligence could lead regarding accessibility! Let's consider speech or cognitive impairments or difficulties and how, in these scenarios, communication in itself can become a challenge. Now, let's merge this point with the Natural Language Processing (NLP) concept! This subset of AI trains products and services with the needed structure to understand and answer human language prompts. As a result, regardless of disabilities or preferences, all users can interact with digital platforms as they wish, from voice commands to text-to-speech. Our beloved Siri is just the tip of the iceberg regarding what Artificial Intelligence can do regarding Digital Accessibility!

There are many examples to discuss, like AI's proactive role in suggesting users specific features that may suit particular needs or Artificial Intelligence's potential for image and object recognition, which can invaluably help visually impaired users. Yet, the main point of this blend and its potential relies on societal changes and what users expect even before considering a digital product. 

As the World Wide Web grew, accessibility often had a certain undertone of being the last checklist item to be ticked off for compliance. Yet, over the years, the need for user-centric mindsets became the norm as societies started to claim the demand for accessible products while fostering accessible environments that understood the unique needs of every individual. While teams and businesses began to consider it at prior steps of each project, the truth is that there's only so much to do with the current way we build digital products. And that's where Artificial Intelligence makes a triumphal entry! AI and its vast array of features and capabilities encourage a paradigm shift in which inclusivity can be considered from the conception stages of every digital project. With AI-driven solutions, there's no limit when paving the road for a new era of Product Development! 

A key feature of Artificial Intelligence, invaluable for accessibility-based approaches, is its capacity for continuous learning. As users interact with a product, AI collects and processes data, refining its understanding of individual preferences. This iterative process ensures that accessibility features evolve, becoming increasingly attuned to the diverse needs of the user base. For example, an AI-powered screen reader can learn to recognize new words and phrases specific to a user's interests, making it easier to navigate digital content. This level of precognition boosts User Experiences (UX) to unparalleled convenience, enabling Artificial Intelligence to provide more personalized answers regarding Digital Accessibility!

In summary, the path forward is clear. Accessibility stopped being that last checklist item: besides being a driving force in Digital Product Development, businesses have a social and moral obligation for companies to their users and consumers. It's not a question of "if" but "how soon" for businesses to take that giant leap toward a future where tech has no limits!