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How Data Science Enhances Care for Persons with Disabilities

Updated: Mar 9, 2022

Disability can come in various forms, such as physical, cognitive, and sensory impairments, to name a few. In the U.S., one in four adults (26%) live with some disability. These people often face problems with mobility and independent living. Fortunately, there have been significant developments in data science and technology to address their needs.

A complex model of a computer network.

In fact, the technology market for people with disabilities and the elderly is predicted to reach $26 billion by 2024, a huge jump from the 2015 value of $14 billion. This growth can be attributed to the increased prevalence of technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and modern human-computer interfaces. In this case, the ultimate goal of data science and technology is to improve the quality of living for persons with disabilities, as seen in the following:

Geolocation for increased safety

For many people with disabilities, getting around entails a lot of preparation. It’s essential, then, that those who are particularly vulnerable have that added level of protection.

For one, mental health researchers are in the process of designing a geolocating app for people with schizophrenia. The app takes both the users’ known symptoms and puts them together with passive data (geolocation and communication records). Both are inputted into a multivariate time series model, which would help spot signs of relapse or early warning signs for episodes— their caregivers would then be notified of their status and location. Similarly, another mobile app is in development to provide digital maps of building interiors. This app would give users audible descriptions of their surroundings; it would also determine the user's exact position within the building.

Big data to create customizable aids and equipment.

Until recently, the market offered only generic types and sizes of assistive equipment. The users would first have to purchase them and then modify these items afterward. While that can be an effective solution, businesses today have data to anticipate different needs. Thanks to the power of big data analytics, people with disabilities have a wider range of products suited to their needs.

Data technology has progressed so rapidly, not just in the products it churns out but also in how it’s taught, with universities offering online courses to try and keep up with the global demand. By offering remote education, they have greatly contributed to data’s progress in areas like healthcare and wellness. Professionals with an online data analytics degree are highly valuable across industries as they’re trained in areas such as big data processing, forecasting, and predictive analytics. What’s more, these data specialists are skilled in data visualization; they can translate data into charts, graphs, maps, and more to inform business decisions. This is an essential skill, especially when the annual data worldwide is expected to skyrocket to 180 trillion gigabytes by 2025. Part of these data points is those collected from the daily lives of people living with disabilities. As these data specialists help more businesses understand huge amounts of data, more products and services can be created and thoughtfully designed for persons with disabilities. There are now denim jeans that can accommodate catheters, Halloween costumes that can incorporate wheelchair use, e-readers that can read out audible books, and many more.

AI for better accessibility

Caring for persons with disabilities involves promoting independence; having a disability doesn’t incapacitate people. With the right accessibility tools and assistance, such as AI, they can live their version of a normal life.

One great application of AI technology is machine learning. Currently, Google is developing a program to understand different speech patterns, particularly from those with speech impediments and limitations. They’ve compiled several voice samples and translated those into a spectrogram, which is a visual representation of the data from the soundbites. The system is then “trained” to improve speech recognition and detect specific sounds or gestures using AI algorithms. The decoded information would be transmitted to Google Home or the user’s phone to fulfill predefined actions like sending text messages or making calls.

With the right technologies and support, everyone can find the appropriate solutions to live meaningful and productive lives.

The article was made only for the use of

By Janice Scott


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