Professor Mike Wald leads research into accessible technologies in the Web and Internet Science Group, ECS, University of Southampton. He has had many years of experience working with disabled users in research, development, support and provision of knowledge in the areas of disability, assistive technology and digital accessibility.
He was a founder member of the International Liberated Learning Consortium that included leading universities and organisations investigating how speech recognition captioning and transcription could be enhanced. Over 20,000 people in more than 150 countries have enrolled on his online inclusion and digital accessibility courses.
Professor Wald's research seeks to understand the design and deployment of AI to benefit all members of society, including traditionally underserved communities. The global assistive technology market is set to exceed $26 billion by 2024, but in many low and middle-income countries there is limited access to these technologies. However, the growing use of AI in mobile, free and open source applications and knowledge sharing of expertise could help to achieve the World Health Organisation’s goal for Universal Health Coverage which “can be advanced inclusively only if people are able to access quality assistive products when and where they need them”.
The impact that AI will have on education and employment in the future is undeniable, but AI research could be a force for good for the more than a billion people who live with some form of disability as long as they are not marginalised. The impact of this work could become part of the World Health Organisation’s drive to address the “unmet need of assistive products [that] is crucial to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, to provide Universal Health Coverage, and to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”