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Microsoft commits $USD25 million to AI accessibility

Microsoft has announced at their Build conference in Seattle USA that they have committed to a major accessibility initiative focused on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and accessibility.

The initiative, titled ‘AI for Accessibility’, is a new $USD25 million, five-year program designed to put AI tools in the hands of developers to accelerate the development of accessible and intelligent AI solutions.

In the announcement, Microsoft indicated that there are three specific scenarios for this project – employment, modern life and human connection.

To achieve this, Microsoft indicated that the project will focus on a combination of funding support and a corporate mentoring process, stating that:

“The AI for Accessibility program will do this in three ways. First, we will provide seed grants of technology to developers, universities, nongovernmental organizations, and inventors taking an AI-first approach focused on creating solutions that will create new opportunities and assist people with disabilities with work, life and human connections. Next, we will identify the projects that show the most promise and make larger investments of technology and access to Microsoft AI experts to help bring them to scale. And third, as we infuse AI and inclusive design across our offerings, we will work with our partners to incorporate AI innovations into platform-level services to empower others to maximize the accessibility of their offerings.”

Seeing AI app screenshotScreenshot of Seeing AI app

Recent initiatives in the space such as the Seeing AI app for iOS has received mixed reviews in its practical use, but the blind and vision impaired community broadly welcome the fact that such initiatives are taking place and that such innovations are available for free. Furthermore, the disabled community are continuing to encourage Microsoft to refine its work in this area, and make its solutions available for Android devices in addition to its iOS efforts.

Additional information can be found in the AI for Accessibility blog post.

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