Author: Shana Penna

Coauthor(s): Shana Penna, C.O.O. and Adriana Mallozzi, C.E.O

Status: Work In Progress

Funding Acknowledgment: Department of Veterans Affairs

Our goal is to connect the developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and Internet of Things (IOT) and apply them to technologies that people with disabilities (PWDs) have access to. Improving PWDs’ lives in ways that the able-bodied cannot imagine.


A. Innovating: The significance of our project is the incorporation of biosensors and IOT connectivity in AT with the intention of developing AI that will help PWDs to live more integrated, independent lives. Machine Learning uses data aggregated from AT usage and “learns” from it, eventually without a programmer inputting the data. People with disabilities have unique usage patterns which change day to day, thus will require innovative ML techniques that will “think” beyond the patterns usually associated with device/software usage from the able-bodied. However, once these patterns are identified, ML will potentially advance all types of technologies for any user, disabled or not, by adjusting to our physical and psycho-social interactions.

B. Connecting: As biosensor and usage data accumulates, the information will further contribute to medical professionals looking to develop better treatments for PWDs. The value is created by aggregating information on every movement, every click in a program, and every interaction with a device. Imagine a new SCI patient in a “Smart Hospital Room” utilizing “Smart devices” and biosensors in contrast to the “old days,” when they would be cut off from the world due to a traumatic imperceptible event. Having access to one’s social support system, along with the ability to interact with their environment, improves the rate and degree of healing – research shows a direct correlation with healing and emotional support. Additionally, the information derived from the interactions with the device and the biosensors can lead to “precision medicine” type treatments for the newly injured, not easily assessed from bedside interactions of passing doctors.

C. Promoting: Innovators have become obsessed with autonomous cars. Globally, there are companies developing the intelligence for autonomous cars with the intention of helping able-bodied drivers basically text while commuting to work. What is most companies missing? The value of autonomous cars for those who have never driven independently because they are physically unable to operate a vehicle. This motivates us to incorporate ML and AI protocols in AT development. ML and AI will improve the lives of PWDs in ways that we are only now beginning to understand and we want every developer in the tech industry to be cognizant of this as they innovate. One goal of our project is to change the way people in tech think – opening up their minds to “able-ing all” and universal design.


Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence are still a nascent advancement with no defined protocols or standardizations; when coupled with AT for PWDs the challenges are increased exponentially. Every disability is different, every interaction will be unique, and defining datasets with pools of information so substantially different will take expertise not yet developed. We also recognize there are data restrictions, HIPAA protections, and regulatory challenges that we will face – however, these hurdles are nothing in comparison to the impact we’ll have on the lives of those with disabilities by incorporating ML, AI, and IOT.