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6 ways generative AI helps improve accessibility for all with Azure 

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The application of Azure AI in enhancing accessibility is both broad and impactful, with Microsoft Copilot leading the charge. Here are six notable examples where Azure AI is making a difference.

In the rapidly evolving world of technology, generative AI stands out, especially in its potential to transform the lives of people with disabilities. The past year has witnessed unparalleled advances in this domain, catalyzing significant breakthroughs in accessibility. The excitement surrounding generative AI is not just about the convenience it offers to the general populace, but also its profound impact on enhancing productivity and enabling individuals with disabilities to engage more fully in their preferred activities. This sentiment is at the heart of the advancements made possible by cutting-edge tools like Microsoft Copilot, which exemplify the transformative power of generative AI in making technology truly inclusive. 

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Microsoft Ability Summit

Delve deeper into the intersection of Azure AI and accessibility on March 7, 2024

The application of Azure AI in enhancing accessibility is both broad and impactful, with Microsoft Copilot leading the charge. Here are six notable examples where Azure AI is making a difference: 

1. Microsoft Copilot—The assistive tool for everyone 

Copilot, powered by Microsoft Azure OpenAI Service, is at the forefront of this revolution, embodying the essence of assistive technology designed for everyone. The philosophy underpinning Copilot and similar generative AI tools is simple yet profound: accessibility is about adaptation to the individual’s needs. Through natural language processing capabilities, Copilot enables users to effortlessly request or generate adaptations specific to their requirements. Whether it’s simplifying complex documents or assisting someone who is colorblind in navigating color-coded charts, Copilot stands as a testament to the inclusive potential of generative AI. To learn more, watch this video on Copilot and Accessibility

2. Seeing AI—Vision assistant, powered by Azure 

Made with and for the blind community, this mobile app assists with daily tasks from understanding your surroundings, to reading the mail, to identifying products. Leveraging the power of Microsoft Azure GPT-4 Turbo with Vision, Seeing AI is able to generate highly detailed descriptions of photos. Users can also employ natural language capabilities to chat with Seeing AI and ask questions about a photo or document. Download Seeing AI here.

3. AI-powered audio descriptions 

With the advancements in GPT-4 Turbo with Vision, Azure AI unlocks huge opportunities in video accessibility for blind and low-vision individuals. The enhanced computer vision capabilities now allow for more detailed and accessible video descriptions. If you’re interested in using computer vision to expand accessibility of videos in your organization, please fill in this form to express interest in our upcoming solution accelerator.

4. Alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) 

Azure Neural Voices, utilized by AI for Accessibility grantee Cboard, brings natural voices to their open-source picture board communication app. This development, alongside the use of Azure OpenAI to refine sentence structure, opens up new possibilities for personalized communication. 

5. Mental health support chatbots 

The deployment of Azure OpenAI in creating mental health chatbots, exemplified by iWill in India, showcases the potential of AI in delivering crucial services to underserved populations. iWill uses a combination of AI, human-in-the-loop, and content safety filtering to ensure AI is used responsibly for vulnerable users with mental health concerns. 

6. Accessible AI development in Microsoft Azure AI Studio 

Microsoft is committed to making AI development accessible to all developers, regardless of their abilities. This commitment is reflected in the design and development of Azure AI Studio, which was created with accessibility as a foundational principle. As the disability community often says, “nothing about us without us”. By empowering developers with disabilities to take part in AI development, we hope to enable the next wave of AI-driven accessibility solutions—built by people with lived experience—that can benefit even more individuals. 

Customer inspiration: NaturalReader 

NaturalReader, a Canadian AI text-to-speech service provider, has significantly enhanced educational accessibility for millions of students worldwide by leveraging Azure AI to develop more authentic, natural-sounding voices and a convenient mobile app. This innovation not only doubled its global sales from 2022 to 2023 but also attracted several Ivy League colleges as customers. By addressing the challenges faced by students with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, NaturalReader has made educational materials more accessible and engaging, helping to break down barriers to learning. The company’s success in improving voice quality and accessibility at scale, with a notable increase in daily users and app downloads, underscores the transformative impact of Azure AI on educational technology and the broader mission of making education accessible to all. 

Human inspiration: Paralympian Lex Gillette 

Team USA Paralympian Lex Gillette sat down with Microsoft to discuss how technology helps him in his daily life. He is the current world record holder in the long jump, a five-time Paralympic medalist, a four-time long jump world champion, and an 18-time national champion. He is the only totally blind athlete to ever eclipse the 22-foot barrier in the long jump. As Lex prepares for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, we are excited to follow his journey. Learn more about Lex Gillette’s journey on the Microsoft Cloud Blog. 

Join us at the Microsoft Ability Summit 

To delve deeper into the intersection of Azure AI and accessibility, we invite you to join us at the Microsoft Ability Summit on March 7, 2024. This free event will feature discussions on various aspects of AI and accessibility, including sessions on AI development, co-design projects with EY, and innovative applications of AI in bridging the disability divide. 

Generative AI is not just a technological advancement; it’s a pathway to empowerment and inclusivity. As we continue to explore and expand the capabilities of tools like Microsoft Copilot, the horizon of what’s possible keeps broadening. The transformative impact of Azure AI on accessibility is a powerful reminder of technology’s potential to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives, particularly those who face the greatest challenges in accessing and utilizing digital tools. Join us in this journey towards a more accessible and empowered future, where technology truly makes the impossible possible. 

Ready to help improve the world of accessibility? Check out the Accessibility Innovation Toolkit to help you think about accessibility and create a framework for innovation featuring tops, case studies, datasets, and research.