The University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign (UIUC) has announced a new Speech Accessibility Project with big tech companies like Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Meta.
The aim of the project is to improve voice recognition for users with disabilities and different speech patterns including users with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), Parkinson’s, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and other diseases that affect speech.
“Speech interfaces should be available to everybody, and that includes people with disabilities,” said Mark Hasegawa-Johnson, a UIUC professor.
The Speech Accessibility Project will gather speech samples from people with a variety of speech patterns to include communities of people with disabilities like Parkinson’s.
To contribute voice samples and help create a private unidentified dataset, the UIUC will hire paid volunteers. At first, the group will focus on American English.
The initiative has received support commitments from Team Gleason (ALS) and the Davis Phinney Foundation (Parkinson’s).
“Part of that commitment includes ensuring people with Parkinson’s have access to the tools, technologies, and resources needed to live their best lives,” said Polly Dawkins, the Davis Phinney Foundation’s Executive Director.
“Parkinson’s affects motor symptoms, making typing difficult, so speech recognition is a critical tool for communication and expression,” she added.