Since May, we have all been anxiously awaiting the announcement from Microsoft depicting the partners for their new $25 million grant supporting accessibility. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait much longer. After vigorous application sifting, Zyrobotics has been selected to be the first grantee for the AI for Accessibility program developed and sponsored by Microsoft. Their ReadAble Storiez encompass the goals of the AI for Accessibility program in its entirety which is what made Zyrobotics a forerunner for this opportunity.
ReadAble Storiez is a reading fluency program for students with diverse learning needs, which also helps fill in the gaps for students from low-income homes who may not have access to speech-language or occupational therapists. By creating custom speech
models with Microsoft Cognitive Services and Azure Machine Learning, ReadAble Storiez identifies when a student needs feedback, much like a therapist or teacher would recognize and provide. – Wendy Chisolm
The AI for Accessibility Program is designed to “empower people with disabilities.” Per Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s latest book, it is a personal goal for him to create and support products that are inclusive of those with disabilities. As the father of a child with a severe disability, Satya has dedicated both time and money to creating a world of inclusive technology. “It just gave me an understanding of the responsibility of a platform company, a technology company.”
Moving forward, Microsoft has committed to inclusivity. “Around the world, only one in 10 people with disabilities has access to assistive technologies and products. By making AI solutions more widely available, we believe technology can have a broad impact on this important community,” stated Microsoft president, Brad Smith.
With all this being said, Zyrobotics and ReadAble Storiez showcases the vision that Microsoft continues to foster. As a company, Zyrobotics prides itself on early educational tools designed for all learning needs. More recently, they have committed to a reading program, focused on STEM content, that is not only dedicated to diverse learning needs but also varied income statuses.
“Zyrobotics is about making STEM accessible to all children… we develop tools, most of them free online, that students can use to learn how to code, become confident in their math and science abilities, and become proficient learners in a digital world” states Zyrobotics’ founder, Dr. Ayanna Howard.
“In our experience, because every child is different, you have to let them look at technology in different ways, more than just visual and auditory. Our focus is to incorporate interaction and personalization. The usage of AI/Machine learning algorithms ensures that our apps are accessible and can be adapted to the personal needs of each child. We are excited about how this program and partnership with Microsoft will help us address significant gaps for engaging each child based on their unique strengths and abilities.”
The program was created to support companies that support inclusivity. Microsoft states, “We are looking for individuals or teams who are not only passionate about making the world more inclusive, but also firmly rooted in the communities they intend to benefit. We want to see ideas that are developed by or with people with disabilities, not just for us.”
Both Zyrobotics and Microsoft hope to further the development of accessibility by providing beneficial technology for those with disabilities and special learning needs. Find out more about the program at AI for Accessibility FAQ.