Project in collaboration with the Fundación ONCE about accessibility barriers

From the outset, Citibeats was founded on the belief that the application of Artificial Intelligence – and all of its immense power – is meant for benefitting society and making the world a better place.

One of the pillars of our commitment to deliver ethical AI is that the Citibeats platform is used solely for projects that aim to deliver a positive impact on people’s lives. As such, Citibeats teamed up with the Fundación ONCE, an organization in Spain whose mission is to carry out employment programs for persons with disabilities and promote the creation of environments, products and services that are globally accessible. Together, we issued a report to identify the barriers that people with disabilities face in Spain. 

Project Background

The State of Alarm that was imposed to fight COVID-19 – and the measures adopted in the ‘new normal’ – have surfaced new barriers that people with disabilities must face in their day-to-day. This is one of the main conclusions found in the latest ONCE Foundation report, carried out in collaboration with Citibeats that analyzed the more than 300,000 opinions collected on Twitter.

An “accessibility map” was created using Citibeats’ technology as a social listening tool to capture and structure citizens’ conversations about disability. By structuring and visualizing citizen opinions, decision-makers now have a road map to better design programs and initiatives that meet this population’s greatest needs.

The opinions collected were structured into four types of disabilities:

  1. Visual
  2. Hearing
  3. Cognitive
  4. Physical

and into five types of barriers:

  1. Building environment
  2. Transportation
  3. Communication & interaction
  4. Social & cultural
  5. Intersectional

COVID-19 Impact Report

Find out what the concerns and needs of citizens are in this unprecedented situation caused by COVID-19.

Key Findings

The purpose of the analysis was to identify the barriers that Spanish citizens with disabilities face most frequently and what differences exist between groups. Among the data collected, there was also a special focus on the impact of the pandemic and the role of video games and 3D printing in social inclusion.

The types of barriers that dominate in Spain

For those with Cognitive disabilities, the biggest barriers they face are cultural and social (38%), where stories report on a lack of empathy for the difficulties this group faces. The second-largest barrier is the difficulties in communication, which represented 35% of comments.

For those with visual disabilities, the most commented barrier is communication and interaction (58%), where there was also talk of numerous initiatives to facilitate the communication autonomy of people with visual disabilities. The other major topics of conversation included barriers in the building environment (18%) and transportation (14%).

For the hearing impaired, according to the comments analyzed, the main barrier is communication and interaction (81%), where the demands for greater investment in support systems such as LSE interpreters in public services stand out.

Among those with physical disabilities, complaints and solutions for barriers related to the building environment were the most prevalent (43%) followed by barriers in communication and interaction (24%) and transportation (20%).

What citizens think

A set of insights was collected from the stories that citizens mentioned on social networks for each of the four types of disabilities.

About visual disability, there appeared positive talk about The Madrid City Council beginning to include visual and hearing impairment aid for home interior adaptation and Microsoft’s announcement about the availability of the Seeing AI app in Spanish. On the negative side – despite the positive intentions of these initiatives – there are still complaints about how audiobooks, audio descriptions, and braille keywords work.

In the area of cognitive disability, there were favorable mentions of increased signs of empathy and solidarity among autistic children and how confinement has helped those with Down Syndrome handle tasks without haste. 

Around the topic of the hearing impaired, topics ranged from complaints about the withdrawal of LSE Interpreters for online-learning classes for students with hearing disabilities to debate about a video on Twitter of a person without a hearing impairment teaching sign language.

The role of video games and 3D printing in social inclusion

Regarding video games and 3D printing, there’s positive sentiment about new technologies that have been developing new applications to solve some of the barriers that people with disabilities face. 

Among the stories mentioned is the creation of 3D prostheses and implants, the first ear transplant using 3D technology, and the “Help me 3D” project in Spain that manufactures 3D arms for people around the world who can’t afford the cost of a conventional prosthesis.

In the area of video games, we see more inclusion in video games with the development of “The Recycling Heroes”, an educational game that includes different accessibility options like sign language, easy reading, and audio description. There was also much celebration about the launch of the new PS4 video game which stars a character with autism.

The effect of COVID-19 on people with disabilities 

Teleworking has brought new communication barriers and technological solutions for people with visual and hearing disabilities. In addition, people with cognitive disabilities have suffered different samples of discrimination and lack of empathy during confinement and subsequent measures.

It was also found that new logistical barriers have emerged for people with physical disabilities and growing uncertainty regarding the measures of deconfinement. 

Final Thoughts

The promoters of the study emphasize that citizens and their opinions are the best sensors to identify problems and social needs. “The digitization of society, citizen participation channels and social networks have become platforms for expressing citizen demands. This makes citizen opinions a rich source of information to identify those problems that most concern society. “

Thanks to Citibeats’ artificial intelligence and natural language processing model, this citizen social listening project served to identify and locate on the map the different barriers that groups of people with disabilities face. 

The ONCE project is a perfect example of how technology and leaders can successfully team up to bring citizens into the decision-making process and produce positive change. And this is only the beginning.

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