Science & Technology

Artificial intelligence: Barrier-free art for people with disabilities?

Valencia, Spain, Jun 28 (EFE).- The creative potential of artificial intelligence (AI) could turn this technology into a tool capable of bringing art closer to individuals with disabilities, breaking down sensory or physical barriers currently hindering their access.

Experts hope that AI will reduce obstacles in two separate spheres: on one hand, facilitating artistic creation by people with disabilities, and on the other, improving accessibility in museum and exhibition facilities often seen as unfriendly.

“Their main difficulties are that the artworks themselves are not accessible to people with visual impairments, for instance, and museums are not adapted for them to understand the information guiding them through the process of experiencing and enjoying an artwork,” visual artist and AI expert Manuel Delgado explained in an interview with EFE.

This week, Delgado is delivering a lecture at the Women’s Leadership School, a training event for female students from across Europe, gathered in Valencia to learn about topics related to digitalization.

For the first time, this itinerant academy, driven by Chinese tech company Huawei, arrives in Spain with the goal of providing comprehensive training on subjects ranging from cybersecurity to the use of AI in the art world.

The director of the Women’s Leadership School, Spanish native Berta Herrero, advocated in statements to EFE that a technology like AI “can be used for the common good” and to “accompany people with disabilities and promote their full participation in the digital transition,” including in the artistic realm.

AI systems can facilitate text-to-speech conversion for creating audio guides, and although Delgado pointed out this technology isn’t widespread in museums yet, he predicts it will “upgrade systems that already work but could be more efficient with AI.”

“Imagine if the audio guide includes a motion sensor that knows where a wall is or where to turn: it could not only point out artworks, but also the way, and this would change the museum experience for a person with visual impairment, as it would eliminate the need for another person to explain the exhibition to them,” Delgado suggested.

In his view, AI can also help bring music to people with hearing impairments, as it could “capture sounds from a song and reproduce them through vibrations that someone could touch or feel.” In addition, the emergence of new programs like Midjourney, which creates computer-generated images based on voice or text instructions through AI, opens opportunities for people with limited mobility to draw, though the use of these technologies sparks a debate over the boundaries of art.

“A person who can’t move their arms due to a motor disability can’t paint pictures or sculpt, but they do know what they want to create,” Delgado argued.

Regardless, a recent survey, conducted in 2021 by the Europe Beyond Borders platform, concluded that 87% of art organizations in 40 European countries did not feature any artist with a disability in their exhibitions or festivals. That is why Delgado also advocates for raising awareness and calls for a “change of perspective” among the general public, aiming to “facilitate representation of people with disabilities in all activities we do.”

“We are not sufficiently aware, and it’s not that we are guilty of it. If we’ve been raised in a society where we were not aware of differences until we were older, we will conduct activities thinking of people similar to us, who are not limited by blindness or deafness,” he argued.

Precisely with the aim of shaking the general public’s consciousness, Delgado is designing a project that aspires to present what he calls the “mainstream viewer” recreations of artworks as perceived by a blind person, including unintelligible braille symbols for the recipient.

The goal, concluded this AI expert and visual artist, is that “the strangeness felt when viewing the artwork fosters greater empathy and awareness of the difficulties” that individuals with disabilities encounter daily. EFE


(photo) (video)

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