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People With Disability, Artificial Intelligence (AI) Technology and Safety
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People With Disability, Artificial Intelligence (AI) Technology and Safety

Artificial intelligence (AI) technology system has been introduced into power wheelchairs and other devices, and it is believed that AI will help bring ease to communication and mobility of people with disabilities, but one thing that is important in the development of artificial intelligence technology is safety. How safe is the AI technology for people with disabilities? 

Apart from AI-powered wheelchair and assistive devices, AI technology was introduced into gadgets and services to help relieve human from stress, increase independent living, but recently, there are reports of algorithm discrimination, and this has exposed the tendency of machine learning to magnify the prejudices that skew human decision-making against people with disabilities. Hence, safety is a great concern.

The best way to reflect disability considerations in AI design and safety for people with disabilities is to employ more engineers with disabilities, says Kristina Barrick, Scope's digital director. To promote genuine change, independence and safety, she says, more students with disabilities must study computer science and become part of AI technology development. 

Last Autumn, knee-high robots on wheels began delivering groceries at the University of Pittsburgh, Emily Ackerman, a student with a disability had a close-up with a delivery robot, as she was crossing a busy road, she got blocked by the robot. She got infuriated. She had thought about being blocked on a road when a car is coming from the other end, it would have been a sad story. But at this time, she was perched on a low curb designed for wheelchair access, blocking her path to the pavement, sat the robot that had ground to a standstill. In a panic, Ms Ackerman forced her wheelchair to climb the curb and arrived adeptly but painfully jolted as the traffic lights turned green.

This incident led to the University of Pittsburgh suspension of the AI technology delivery robot for some time, the University made a review and some mapping amendments to the routes. Then the robots returned. Starship Technologies, the robot’s owner apologized to Ms. Ackerman. 

As AI technology continues to gain ground, it is believed that more safety measures would be taken to eliminate avoidable accidents. 

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