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The Practice of Applying AI to Benefit Visually Impaired People in China

By Chun Yu, Jiajun Bu

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 64 No. 11, Pages 70-75

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According to the China Disabled Persons' Federation (CDPF), there are now 17 million visually impaired people in China, among which three million are totally blind, while the others are low-visioned. In the past two decades, China has experienced tremendous development of information technology. Traditional industries are incorporating information technology, with services delivered to users through websites and mobile applications. It is positive technical progress that visually impaired people can access various services without leaving home; for example, they can order food delivery online or schedule a taxi from an app-based transportation service.

However, the development of technology has also brought challenges to the visually impaired in China. First, the cost to make massive information services barrier-free is huge. Information accessibility per se is challenging due to visual impairment coupled with IT developers' poor awareness of information accessibility. These factors result in a large portion of applications that do not meet accessibility standards. Second, the development of technology has led to urbanization and a fast pace of life, and the outdoor environment is not suitable for the visually impaired to walk alone. It is also challenging to develop technology that enables visually impaired people to walk in complex outdoor environments. The development of artificial intelligence creates the opportunity to address these challenges.


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