Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, Microsoft, and nonprofit partners pledge to expand speech recognition capabilities for people with disabilities and diverse speech patterns.
(October 3, 2022) – Team Gleason is excited to announce its support of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s (UIUC) Speech Accessibility Project, a new research initiative to make voice recognition technology more useful for people with a range of diverse speech patterns and disabilities. The project launches today with cross-industry support from Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft, as well as nonprofit organizations whose communities will benefit from this accessibility initiative, to make speech recognition more inclusive of diverse speech patterns.
Team Gleason, which serves the ALS community through a broad range of programming, assistive technology, equipment, and robust support services, shares the goal of this effort to expand the usefulness of speech recognition tools. “Team Gleason strives each day to provide the best available assistive technology for the ALS community while simultaneously exploring ways to advance future solutions,” said Blair Casey, executive director for Team Gleason. “Technology has the ability to overcome communication barriers and increase independence. Team Gleason is proud to help accelerate this effort for people living with ALS and anyone else with speech differences.”
Today’s speech recognition systems, such as voice assistants and translation tools, don’t always recognize people with a diversity of speech patterns often associated with disabilities. This includes speech affected by Lou Gehrig’s disease or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, and Down syndrome. In effect, many individuals in these and other communities may be unable to benefit from the latest speech recognition tools.
With artificial intelligence and machine learning, technology companies can address the need for more inclusive speech recognition. To support this goal, The Speech Accessibility Project will collect speech samples from individuals representing a diversity of speech patterns. UIUC researchers will recruit paid volunteers to contribute recorded voice samples to build de-identified datasets that can be used to train machine learning models to better understand a wide variety of speech patterns. The Speech Accessibility Project will focus first on American English.
Community organizations will assist in participant recruitment and user testing, as well as provide feedback at various stages of the project. Learn more about how to get involved in the Speech Accessibility Project at www.speechaccessibilityproject.com.
About Team Gleason
Team Gleason Foundation was founded by former New Orleans Saints player, Steve Gleason, after his diagnosis with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) in 2011. Team Gleason’s mission is to improve life for people living with ALS by delivering innovative technology and equipment, as well as providing and empowering an improved life experience. For more information on how to help people living with ALS have the resources and the opportunities to not only continue living, but continue living productive, purposeful, and meaningful lives, please visit www.TeamGleason.org.
About Accessibility at UIUC
Researchers, staff, and students at UIUC have pioneered accessibility in the United States. In 1948, it became the first post-secondary institution to provide a support service program enabling students with disabilities to attend. Since then, research on campus led to the development of the first architectural accessibility standards that would become the American National Standards Institute Standards. UIUC was home to the first wheelchair-accessible bus system, first accessible university residence halls, and the first collegiate adapted sports and recreation program for students with disabilities.