Banner photo taken by Professor Rob Elliott of the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology at IUPUI, then manipulated by him in Photoshop Beta using Adobe Firefly. Learn more about Firefly in Emerging Tech.
Manager, Assistive Technology and Accessibility Centers
How generative AI tools can make a positive difference and bolster inclusivity.
Much has been said lately about the sudden onslaught of the generative AI machine. Scary headlines have predicted everything from the end of education to the massive elimination of jobs, including "Will Gen-AI take your job?", "Schools look to ban ChatGPT," and "ChatGPT is upending academia." These sound foreboding and completely ignore the potential benefits of ChatGPT and other generative AI systems for students and faculty alike. For example, ChatGPT can be a way for students with disabilities to even the playing field.
When we look at the capabilities and remove some of the hype, ChatGPT could be a real asset in the classroom. Let's look at the upsides that generative AI can provide.
Generative AI can help people with disabilities create content that expresses their ideas, emotions, and perspectives, and can do so in different modalities and formats. Imagine the possibilities for someone who yearns to create works of art but can't use their arms. They now can use text-to-image generators like DALL-E to create visual art based on natural language descriptions. They can begin new works using the tools available to them--in this case, by simply using words.
Students with dysgraphia struggle to transfer their thoughts into text. As generative AI improves, students can use these tools and perhaps have an easier time translating thoughts into written words. Predictive text can help them select the grammatically correct words, and speech-to-text can also help them write papers by using their voice.
Generative AI can also help people with disabilities consume content that is not accessible. For example, people who are blind or have low vision can use applications like Seeing AI to get verbal descriptions of images or scenes.
Students who have cognitive disabilities, attention deficits, or whose primary language is not English can use text simplifiers like Rewordify to get plain language versions of difficult texts.
Generative AI can be a boon to faculty as well. Tools like ChatGPT can help jumpstart many difficult hurdles toward making more accessible content. Ever-improving automated speech recognition programs reduce the amount of time it takes to edit captions for accuracy. Image processing models can jumpstart the creation of alternative text descriptions of diagrams and images used in PowerPoints, textbooks, and journal articles. Document processing models can reduce the time it takes to make PDF articles readable for users of assistive technology.
Navigation and inclusion
Finally, generative AI can help individuals with disabilities participate more fully in the classroom and on campus. More accurate automated captions can assist students with hearing impairments in social settings where they may lack sign language interpreters or a live-captioning assistant. It will also allow them to attend events with more spontaneity.
These are just some of the examples of how generative AI can improve accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities. Generative AI is not a magic solution that can solve all the accessibility challenges, but it is a powerful tool that can complement and augment human efforts and creativity. By using generative AI responsibly and ethically, we can create a more accessible and inclusive world for everyone.