Inclusive Futures: Setting the Stage
On the 8th of December, Riga became the focal point for an important dialogue on the intersection of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the lives of people with disabilities. The conference, aptly themed by AI “Inclusive Futures, Empowered by AI: Redefining Abilities, Unleashing Potential!” was under the European AI and Society Fund and organised by four partners – the Latvian Umbrella body for Disability organisations SUSTENTO, the Ministry of Welfare, Latvia University, and the European language technology and localisation company Tilde.
A Confluence of Minds: Diverse Participants, Unique Perspectives
The event provided a unique platform that welcomed a diverse array of more than 150 participants, including students, researchers, government representatives, and individuals with disabilities. Divided into three distinct parts, the conference delved into crucial aspects of independent living, education, and innovative solutions that showcase the transformative power of AI.
Session 1: Independent Living Through AI
The first session focused on independent living, exploring how artificial intelligence can empower individuals with disabilities to lead more self-sufficient lives. Various solutions were presented, addressing how AI can enhance home management for people with disabilities. Notably, the session shed light on the accessibility of E-signatures, an increasingly integral part of everyday life in Latvia.
Session 2: Transforming Education with AI
The second session centered on education, specifically examining the potential for integrating children with disabilities into mainstream schools. Presentations highlighted AI’s role as an assistant for teachers working with deaf children. Additionally, representatives from organisations supporting families with children with autism detailed the practical applications of AI, particularly Chat GPT, in supporting these children in mainstream educational settings.
Session 3: Innovations in Action
The third and final session aimed to illuminate the groundbreaking work being done in the field. An innovative use of special hands, originally designed for gamers but repurposed for active rehabilitation for both children and adults, was showcased. The session also featured solutions for individuals with speech difficulties, providing them with alternatives such as using their eyes to convert text or making their voices heard through technology.
Ensuring Accessibility: Beyond Words
Each session was followed by dynamic discussions where both speakers and conference participants actively engaged in addressing various questions. The collaborative atmosphere fostered an enriching exchange of ideas and experiences. The conference’s accessibility was ensured through captioning, sign language interpretation, and graphic recording.
A Historic Milestone: Latvia’s First AI and Disability Dialogue
As the conference concluded, it marked a historic milestone as the first of its kind in Latvia to address the crucial role of Artificial Intelligence in the lives of people with disabilities. This initial step is significant, emphasising the importance of continued conversations to delve into the intricacies of the possibilities presented by AI and the accompanying risks. The conference not only served as a knowledge-sharing platform but also laid the foundation for ongoing dialogue, fostering a deeper understanding of how AI can be harnessed to create more inclusive and empowered futures for individuals with disabilities.
Looking Ahead: From Dialogue to Action
Thanks, the European Disability Forum and the European AI and Society Fund for not only their financial support but, more significantly, for catalysing the inception of a groundbreaking dialogue on Artificial Intelligence and disabilities in our country, setting the stage for a more inclusive and empowered future.
This blog was written by Niiara Chubarova, project manager at SUSTENTO and was originally published: https://www.edf-feph.org/blog/breaking-barriers-riga-conference-explores-ais-transformative-impact-on-lives-of-persons-with-disabilities/