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Microsoft accessibility grants go out to companies aiming to improve tech for the disabled

That’s why Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility grants are so welcome: equity-free Azure credits and cash for companies looking to adapt AI to the needs of those with disabilities.

Applications are perennially accepted, and “anybody who wants to explore the value of AI and machine learning for people with disabilities is welcome to apply,” said Microsoft’s Mary Bellard.

The company is working on an iPad-based elementary school curriculum for blind and low-vision students that’s also accessible to sighted kids and easy for teachers to deploy.

Speech-to-text accuracy is high enough now that it can be used for a variety of educational and accessibility purposes, so all it will take for a student to get some extra time in on their braille lessons is an iPad and braille display — admittedly more than a thousand dollars worth of hardware, but no ever one said being blind was cheap.

Braille literacy is dropping, and, I suggested, no surprise there: With pervasive and effective audio interfaces, audio books, and screen readers, there are fewer times when blind and low-vision people truly need braille.

But as Schulz and Bellard both pointed out, it’s great to be able to rely on audio for media consumption, but for serious engagement with the written word and many educational purposes, braille is either necessary or a very useful alternative to speech.

City University of London – The ORBIT : Developing a data set to train AI systems for personalizing object recognition, which is becoming increasingly important for tools used by the blind community.

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