Exploring AI’s role in enhancing social inclusion for individuals with disabilities, focusing on technology-driven solutions and projects.


SwissCognitive Guest Blogger: Artem Pochechuev, Head of Data Science at Sigli – “Bridging the Gap: How AI Can Facilitate Social Inclusion Of People With Disabilities”


SwissCognitive_Logo_RGBA recent study conducted by the UK national disability charity revealed that around 60%, which is almost two-thirds, of people with disabilities are chronically lonely. Even a bigger percentage of respondents (70%) admitted that they feel that social isolation has an impact on their mental health, which can also lead to an increase in mental health conditions in combination with the disabilities that they already have.

And here, we can observe a very important dissonance. On the one hand, a lot of people with disabilities can’t feel that they are a part of society due to the restrictions that they have to face every day. So, they do not have the possibility to communicate with other individuals a lot.

On the other hand, many of them can’t live fully independently. Due to their disorders, they can’t handle even routine tasks. As a result, they need to rely on the support of their family members, nurses, or tutors. Consequently, they are obliged to interact with others to deal even with the simplest everyday processes.

Amid all these issues, questions related to social isolation and lack of independence shouldn’t be ignored by organizations that work with people with disabilities.

Given all the new opportunities that emerging technologies like AI open, they can make a huge contribution to such projects. And it is great to see the growing interest of the world’s community and international institutions in the adoption of AI to help all groups of society.

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According to the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions), “AI holds significant potential to positively impact the lives of persons with disabilities by addressing various challenges and providing innovative solutions. From speech-to-text applications to vision-enhancing tools, AI can break down barriers and provide new avenues for communication and interaction.”

In this article, we offer you to take a closer look at AI-powered projects and initiatives aimed at breaking social barriers for people with disorders of various types.

AI and communication

Speech-to-text and text-to-speech tools are widely applied to help people with hearing and speech impairments communicate with others. In one of our previously written articles, we’ve already described the power of Artificial Intelligence in enhancing the way people with such disorders interact with the world around them.

Thanks to virtual assistants enriched by such features, people can communicate with others in the traditional way. And this approach presupposes a real-time dialogue with practically no delays. As a result, they can solve a lot of tasks (like making calls to book a table at a restaurant, setting an appointment with a doctor, or ordering a delivery) without waiting for help from others. You may say that such tasks can be performed via sending a message. But let’s be honest. Quite often, a phone call is the fastest way to get what you want. And in this case, they can rely on AI-powered virtual assistants like Siri.

But this functionality is not the only one that can be ensured thanks to Artificial Intelligence. AI can fully change the way society can communicate with those who use sign language. With modern solutions, you do not need to know all the signs and their meaning to communicate with those who can’t express thoughts with the help of verbal means. AI algorithms can recognize signs and transform them into natural languages and vice versa.

The AI-powered era in marketing

And that’s cool that there are projects like Signapse AI, which helps businesses adapt their marketing strategies to the needs of everyone. What does it mean? The offered solution can translate written text into a Sign Language video which businesses can place on their websites, social media accounts, and blogs.

It will be sensible to note that all the information can be delivered to people with hearing disorders via written texts. Yes, it is possible. But such projects allow companies to make their communication with everyone vivid and engaging enough. Moreover, that’s a good way to demonstrate that you respect all your existing and potential and appreciate them regardless of any disabilities that they may have.

Autism and social skills

However, while discussing barriers in communication, we should mention not only speaking or hearing disabilities. In this context, it is also crucial to talk about people with autism spectrum disorder.

For individuals with autism, it can be extremely challenging to participate in various formats of social interactions. And AI-powered tools for social skill training can bring huge value. Such tools can simulate different role-playing real-life scenarios, analyse people’s behaviour in offered situations, and provide real-time feedback. It means that, in this case, AI is applied to create a supportive, controlled, and fully safe environment where users can practice and enhance their social skills.

One of the projects that are working on delivering such solutions is SocialMind. It is a member of the Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub. This platform relies on AI and NLP to improve the social skills of children with autism. Thanks to AI, the social skills training can be personalized for each child based on his/her specific needs and learning style.

But that’s not the only possible AI use case in this domain. AI can let people with autism communicate via alternative means. How is it possible? AI technology can recognize non-verbal or limited verbal means. Then language processing algorithms, predictive text, and voice recognition tools can transform them into natural language. As a result, individuals with autism get more freedom in expressing their thoughts. They can engage in various activities and take part in conversations.

AI and consumption of content of different formats

Books, movies, and art are among those things that, in this or that form, are present in our social life and affect it.

Let us mention a very simple example. When you move to a new country and try to integrate into a new community, sooner or later you may feel that you are a stranger. It can happen even if you perfectly know the local language and have already learned the names of local supermarkets. You may start feeling that you do not know the cultural context. For example, you do not know what songs were popular when people from your generation went to school and what cartoons they liked. As a result, you simply can’t understand the majority of memes and jokes.

But, of course, it is not a problem in comparison to what people with hearing or vision disorders experience when it comes to the cultural context.

However, thanks to AI, we can introduce alternative forms of consuming and producing different content. And it’s not only about social and cultural aspects. Such tools can be also of great use for educational and professional purposes.

Live captioning and screen readers are expected to greatly change the game for people with disabilities. Real-time captioning solutions make the participation of individuals with hearing disorders in various online events possible.  At the same time, image and text readers can be used by those with visual impairments and people with dyslexia.

AI and accessibility of public spaces

It’s amazing to observe that today, public spaces are gradually becoming more accessible thanks to AI. Smart city solutions can rely on systems powered by Artificial Intelligence for sharing real-time data on accessible transportation options (like wheelchair-accessible ramps or buses that can be easily used by people with limited mobility).

Architects and designers can benefit from AI-powered tools for creating so-called disability-friendly urban planning and buildings.

And already today there are apps that use the power of AI to provide accessibility information about various public spaces.

For people with visual disorders, the market can offer smart glasses and AI-powered apps that use smartphone cameras. Special cameras can be placed on a person’s eyeglass frames. They utilize optical character recognition technology. With it, they can transform digital or printed text into real-time auditive feedback. Some other solutions of this kind can also be powered by stereo sound sensors and GPS technology. They can recognize colours, read signs, and provide spoken directions.

Moreover, there are applications like Seeing AI by Microsoft that can safely navigate people with visual impairment. AI algorithms can identify objects and people caught by the device camera and then audibly describe what is happening around them.

While Seeing AI is a universal app that can be used in many situations, similar technologies can be more industry-specific. For example, cameras powered by computer vision can be installed in gyms and can notify people about any threats caused by irregular use of equipment. Such a solution can be of great use for a very wide audience. But it will have the highest importance for people with visual impairments.

AI and independent living

Let’s be honest, the modern world is built in such a way that even a lot of healthy people can stay at home, work from home, order deliveries, communicate with others only via chats, and still feel completely okay about it. Total digitalization (in which AI also takes an important position) makes it possible for everyone. However, even when all these opportunities are available, people still feel that they are a part of society. They can easily leave their homes if they want to do it and go wherever they want. They do not depend on others.

But we can’t say just the same about people with disabilities. Many of them can’t live fully independently due to many reasons which causes a lot of discomfort to them. Nevertheless, AI is here to address such issues.

For example, smart controllers used in smart home systems can greatly increase the safety of people with vision and cognitive disabilities. They can track whether all home appliances are turned off when they are not used, monitor possible water leaks, etc. Assistants with voice control can be used to manage a lot of tasks. Meanwhile, cameras with computer vision can recognize who is standing at the door and inform a person.

Special smart controllers can also be responsible for detecting various threats and dangerous situations related to people’s health. Already today, there are projects that offer to install sensors that will detect falls and the absence of movements during a particular period. Such solutions are highly relevant for families with elderly people living alone. If a dangerous pattern is identified, the system will send notifications to nurses or other authorized individuals who can take the required measures.

For people with limited mobility, there are quite a lot of voice-controlled devices and smart robotic products. But some solutions that are available today are ground-breaking. For example, what about walking simply by thinking about it? Thanks to electronic brain implants, it can be possible. The system is still not widely available and is at an experimental stage. Nevertheless, a 40-year-old Dutch man who was paralyzed after an accident got the possibility to walk again. The electronic implants wirelessly transmit his thoughts to his legs and feet via an implant on his spine.

Neurosurgeon Prof Jocelyne Bloch at Lausanne University, who carried out the surgery and inserted the implants, explained the project’s goal in the following way:

“The important thing for us is not just to have a scientific trial, but eventually to give more access to more people with spinal cord injuries who are used to hearing from doctors that they have to get used to the fact that they will never move again.”

And that’s exactly how we at Sigli (Cortlex) view the mission of introducing tech innovations – to make impossible things possible for everyone.

But even such cutting-edge projects are not at the highest level of what we can expect to see in this field in the near future. Research and experiments are going on.


Have we mentioned all the existing AI-powered projects aimed at facilitating everyday tasks for people with disabilities? Definitely no. This list could be practically endless.

Without any doubt, it is extremely exciting to explore the potential of AI in this aspect. And it is even more exciting to make our contribution to this huge common initiative – ensuring that our world is comfortable for everyone. If you need any technical assistance in the realization of such projects, we would be happy to hear from you.

About the Author:

Artem PochechuevIn his current position, Artem Pochechuev leads a team of talented engineers. Oversees the development and implementation of data-driven solutions for Sigli’s customers. He is passionate about using the latest technologies and techniques in data science to deliver innovative solutions that drive business value. Outside of work, Artem enjoys cooking, ice-skating, playing piano, and spending time with his family.