Transcript: How Can AI Assist Accessibility | Nov 28, 2019

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, white shirt, and striped lilac tie.

A caption on screen reads "How A.I. can assist accessibility. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says SMARTPHONES DO A LOT
OF WORK FOR US.
AND AS APPS HARNESSING
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE CONTINUE
TO IMPROVE, THEY'RE BECOMING
INDISPENSABLE, EVEN LIFE
SAVERS.
HERE FOR MORE: EYRA ABRAHAM.
SHE IS FOUNDER OF THE START-UP
LISNEN, THAT USES ADAPTIVE
TECHNOLOGY TO ASSIST THE DEAF
AND HARD OF HEARING.

Eyra is in her late thirties, with long curly brown hair. She's wearing a blue blazer, white shirt, and a chain necklace.

Steve continues SO NICE TO HAVE YOU HERE.

Eyra says THANK YOU.

Steve says FIRST TIME HERE FOR
YOU.

Eyra says IT IS.

Steve says TERRIFIC.
TALK TO US OFF THE TOP ABOUT THE
SO-CALLED DISABILITY MARKET.
WHAT IS THAT?

The caption changes to "Eyra Abraham. Lisnen."
Then, it changes again to "The disability market."

Eyra says WELL, THE DISABILITY MARKET
IS A ONE BILLION POPULATION
MARKET RIGHT NOW ALL AROUND THE
WORLD, AND IT'S A MARKET THAT IS
QUITE... LIKE, WE LIKE TO CALL
IT THE SIZE OF CHINA.
ESSENTIALLY THERE'S OVER 1 TRILLION Dollars OF EXPOSED EXPENSES
AND IT'S QUITE A LARGE MARKET
THAT IS OBVIOUSLY UNTAPPED BY
MANY CORPORATIONS AND
ORGANIZATIONS AROUND THE WORLD.

Steve says A BILLION PEOPLE.

Eyra says A BILLION PEOPLE, YEAH.

Steve says THAT'S MORE THAN 10 percent
OF THE WORLD.

Eyra says THAT IS PRETTY MUCH OR MORE
THAN 10 percent, YEAH.
IT'S OBVIOUSLY SOMETHING THAT'S
BEEN NEGLECTED AND A MARKET THAT
HAS A LOT OF POTENTIAL FOR
BUSINESSES, AND IT'S NOT JUST
THE ONE BILLION PEOPLE.
WE ALSO HAVE TO THINK ABOUT THE
POPULATION, THE FAMILIES AND
FRIENDS THAT ARE ASSOCIATED WITH
PEOPLE LIVING WITH A DISABILITY.

Steve says OKAY.
IF YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT MORE
THAN 10 percent OF THE WORLD'S
POPULATION HAVING A DISABILITY,
MAKE THE CHECKLIST FOR US.
WHAT KIND OF DISABILITIES ARE
YOU REFERRING TO?

The caption changes to "Eyra Abraham, @eyra_abraham."
Then, it changes again to "Visible versus invisible."

Eyra says RIGHT.
THERE ARE TWO DIFFERENT TYPES WE
TALK ABOUT WHEN PEOPLE ARE
LIVING WITH A DISABILITY.
THERE'S A VISIBLE DISABILITY AND
THEN THE INVISIBLE DISABILITY.
VISIBLE DISABILITIES ARE THE
ONES THAT WE KNOW, WE OBVIOUSLY
SEE, SOMEBODY IN A WHEELCHAIR OR
SOMEBODY WALKING DOWN THE STREET
WITH A CANE.
BUT INVISIBLE DISABILITY IS
WHERE WE'RE LOOKING AT PEOPLE
WHO HAVE... IT'S NOT OBVIOUS.
FOR SOMETHING TO BE LIKE MYSELF
WHO IS HARD OF HEARING, IT'S AN
INVISIBLE DISABILITY, OR
SOMEBODY HAS A COGNITIVE
IMPAIRMENT OR THEY HAVE LEARNING
DIFFICULTIES.
SO THERE ARE MANY, MANY
VARIATIONS OF DISABILITY, BUT
MOSTLY, 70 percent OF THEM ARE
INVISIBLE DISABILITIES.

Steve says OBVIOUSLY YOURS IS
AN INVISIBLE DISABILITY BECAUSE
I DIDN'T KNOW.

Eyra says YES, IT IS.

Steve says HERE WE GO.
CAN I ASK YOU ABOUT YOURS?

Eyra says YEAH.

Steve says YOU HAVE AN
INVISIBLE DISABILITY, MEANING
YOU HAVE DIFFICULTY HEARING?

Eyra says YES, I HAVE DIFFICULTY
HEARING.
I'VE BEEN... I'VE HAD HEARING
LOSS SINCE I WAS 3 YEARS OLD.
I'VE BEEN ABLE TO GO THROUGH A
LOT OF TRAINING AND SPEECH
THERAPY AND ABLE TO ARTICULATE.
I RELY ON LIP READING MOST OF
THE TIME.
I WEAR HEARING AIDS.
SOMETIMES MY HEARING... MY HAIR
IS NOT EXPOSING MY HEARING AIDS.
IT BECOMES OBVIOUS TO SOME
PEOPLE.
BUT MOST OF THE TIME PEOPLE
WON'T KNOW BY LOOKING AND
TALKING TO ME.

Steve says HOW AT AGE 3 DID YOU
BEGIN TO LOSE YOUR HEARING?

Eyra says THROUGH AN EAR INFECTION.
WHEN I WAS A YOUNG CHILD
MY PARENTS HAD NOTICED THAT I
WAS GETTING A LOT OF SORT OF
LIKE A FLU, AND AS A RESULT,
THAT I ENDED UP HAVING A HEARING
LOSS.
BUT IT WASN'T DETERMINED UNTIL
LATER WHEN THEY NOTICED THAT MY
PRONUNCIATIONS WERE DIFFERENT,
WHERE I WAS SAYING MOTHER
CLEARLY AND IT WAS LIKE MATHER,
SORT OF MUMBLING WORDS AND STUFF
LIKE THAT.
THAT WAS BECAUSE OF MY TRYING TO
COPE AND UNDERSTANDING AND
PRETTY MUCH LIP READING.

Steve says IS IT IN BOTH EARS?

Eyra says BOTH EARS, YEAH.

Steve says AS I'M SPEAKING
RIGHT NOW, HOW MUCH CAN YOU HEAR
OF WHAT I'M SAYING?

Eyra says IT'S A GOOD QUESTION.
IF I WERE TO TAKE MY HEARING AID
OFF, PUT IT THIS WAY, I DON'T
HEAR A THING.
SO, LIKE, FIRE ALARMS AND
SIRENS, I WON'T BE ABLE TO HEAR
THAT.
WITH THE HEARING AID, I HAVE A
GOOD CAPABILITY OF PICKING UP A
LOT OF THE SOUND.
I WOULD SAY NOWADAYS WITH
DIGITAL HEARING AID TECHNOLOGY,
IT'S MADE IT MUCH EASIER FOR ME
TO HEAR BETTER, AND ESPECIALLY
WHEN I'M IN A LOUD ENVIRONMENT.
WE HAVE ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
THAT ARE BEING EMBEDDED INTO
HEARING AIDS TO HELP FILTER
SOUND SO THAT, LIKE, I COULD BE
IN A NOISY ENVIRONMENT AND I CAN
PICK A VOICE IN THE ENVIRONMENT
AND THEN FOCUS DIRECTLY TOWARDS
THAT.
SO THERE'S A LOT OF TECHNOLOGY
THAT'S ABLE TO HELP ME TO HEAR.
IT'S TREMENDOUS.
AND IT WILL CONTINUE TO IMPROVE
OVER TIME, YEAH.

Steve says SO HAVE YOU ACTUALLY
EVER HEARD YOUR OWN VOICE?

The caption changes to "Connect with us: Twitter: @theagenda; Facebook, agendaconnect@tvo.org, Instagram."

Eyra says YES, I HAVE, AT LEAST I THINK
I HEAR MY OWN VOICE, BUT I DON'T
KNOW IF I HEAR IT THE SAME WAY
THAT YOU HEAR IT.
AND I THINK A LOT OF IT HAS TO
DO WITH... WHEN YOU'RE WEARING
HEARING AIDS, THERE'S AN
ARTIFICIAL SOUND.
MANY PEOPLE WHO HAVE HEARING
LOSS LATER ON IN LIFE, THEY TEND
TO, LIKE, WEAR A HEARING AID FOR
THE FIRST TIME, AND THEY JUST
ABSOLUTELY CAN'T STAND IT.
IT'S TOO MUCH NOISE.
IT FEELS LIKE THERE'S THIS
REALLY PIXILATED SOUND, IT'S
JUST NOT THE SAME TYPE OF
HEARING.
SO I WILL SAY, WHEN I HEAR THAT,
I ASSUME THAT I DON'T HEAR THE
SAME.

Steve says ONE MORE THING.
AS WE'RE SPEAKING RIGHT NOW, ARE
YOU READING MY LIPS OR ARE YOU
HEARING ME?

Eyra says I'M HEARING IT BUT ALSO
READING YOUR LIPS JUST TO
DOUBLE-CHECK THAT I'M MAKING
SURE THAT I GOT THE WORDS
CORRECTLY.

Steve says GOTCHA.

Eyra says IT'S KIND OF LIKE A BACKUP
PLAN.

Steve says TELL US ABOUT
LISNEN.
YOU ARE THE FOUNDER OF CEO OF
SOMETHING CALLED LISNEN,
L-I-S-N-E-N.
WHAT IS THAT?

Eyra says LISNEN IS ESSENTIALLY WE'RE
DEVELOPING A MOBILE APPLICATION
TO HELP PEOPLE WHO ARE DEAF AND
HARD OF HEARING BE AWARE OF
SOUNDS AROUND THEM.
FOR EXAMPLE, THERE'S LIKE A FIRE
ALARM OR EVEN A SIREN, THEY WILL
BE ABLE TO RECEIVE NOTIFICATION
ON THE SMARTPHONE WITH A
VIBRATION AND FLASHING.
WE'RE USING ARTIFICIAL
INTELLIGENCE TO REALLY HELP
BRIDGE THAT GAP BETWEEN THE
HEARING WORLD AND THE DEAF AND
HARD OF HEARING COMMUNITY.

Steve says THAT WAS THE FIRST
THING I THOUGHT OF WHEN YOU TOLD
ME YOU WERE HARD OF HEARING IS I
THOUGHT, I DON'T KNOW, IF YOU
LIVE IN AN APARTMENT OR HOUSE...

Eyra says YES.

Steve says LET'S SAY SOMEONE
WHO IS HARD OF HEARING IS IN AN
APARTMENT AND THERE'S A FIRE.

Eyra says YES.

Steve says YOU'RE NOT GOING TO
HEAR THAT FIRE ALARM.

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Eyra says NO.
THAT IS SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED
TO ME MANY, MANY TIMES.
THAT'S ONE OF MY INSPIRATIONS
FOR THIS COMPANY.
BECAUSE WHEN I WAS LIVING IN
NOVA SCOTIA, THERE WAS A FIRE
ALARM IN MY APARTMENT BUILDING,
AND THE ALARM SYSTEM, WHICH IS
IN THE HALLWAY, IS VERY
DIFFERENT FROM THE ALARM IN THE
UNIT.
SO WHEN THE ALARM GOES OFF IN
THE HALLWAY, I DIDN'T HAVE THE
ADAPTIVE DEVICE AND TOOL TO BE
ABLE TO BE AWARE.
AND UNFORTUNATELY, THEY DECIDED
TO DO A FIRE DRILL AND IN THAT
TIME THEY WERE TAKING ATTENDANCE
AS PEOPLE WERE LEAVING THE
BUILDING, AND MY NAME WAS NOT
CHECKED OFF BECAUSE I WAS BUSY
SLEEPING, ENJOYING MY GOOD
NIGHT'S SLEEP.
BUT OBVIOUSLY WHEN I FOUND OUT A
FEW DAYS LATER, I SENT A LETTER
TO THE PROPERTY MANAGEMENT
COMPANY BLAMING THE SITUATION OF
THE FIRE ALARM AND THE
SERIOUSNESS OF IT.
THAT OPENED MY EYES.
I WAS REALLY SHOCKED AT FIRST.
AND I WAS LIKE, I'VE GOT TO DO
SOMETHING ABOUT IT, AND THAT'S
WHERE MY BUSINESS CAME ABOUT.

Steve says DESCRIBE EXACTLY WHAT IT IS.

Eyra says YEAH.
SO THE BUSINESS ITSELF IS THE
APPLICATION... WE'RE DEVELOPING
TO ENABLE PEOPLE TO USE THEIR
SMARTPHONE.
SO IF YOU HAVE A REGULAR ANDROID
OR iOS PHONE, YOU HAVE YOUR
MICROPHONE IN YOUR PHONE, AND IT
CAN LISTEN TO THE SOUND IN THE
BACKGROUND.
SO I LIKE TO COMPARE THE ALEXA
AND SIRI, SO WHEN YOU HAVE A
FIRE ALARM OR A SIREN, IT WILL
ACTUALLY PICK IT UP USING THE
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
ALGORITHM, AND IT WILL GIVE YOU
A NOTIFICATION.
IT SAYS THERE'S A FIRE ALARM
THAT'S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW.
AND THEN IT GIVES YOU A FLASHING
AND THEN YOUR CELL PHONE WOULD
VIBRATE.

The caption changes to "Looking to the future."

Steve says PRESUMABLY IF YOU
HAVE THE PHONE IN YOUR POCKET OR
SOMETHING, YOU PICK IT UP...

Eyra says YOU CAN PICK IT UP.
EVENTUALLY IN THE FUTURE WE'LL
HAVE WEARABLES IN TECHNOLOGY
THAT YOU CAN PAIR WITH THE PHONE
SO YOU CAN LEAVE YOUR PHONE, IT
DOESN'T ALWAYS HAVE TO BE ON
YOU, BUT YOU CAN HAVE ACCESS TO
INFORMATION ON WHAT'S GOING ON
AROUND YOU THROUGH DIFFERENT
OTHER DEVICES.

The caption changes to "tvo.org/theagenda; agendaconnect@tvo.org."

Steve says HOW FAR ARE YOU INTO
LISNEN RIGHT NOW.

Eyra says WE'RE IN THE VERY EARLY
STAGE.
NEXT YEAR WE HOPE TO LAUNCH OUR
PRODUCT.
I'M LOOKING FORWARD TO THAT DAY
AND THE MOMENT TO BE ABLE TO
SHARE IT WITH THE CUSTOMERS IN
THE MARKETPLACE WHO HAVE BEEN
VERY PATIENTLY WAITING TO SEE.
OBVIOUSLY THERE'S AN ELEMENT OF
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE THAT WE
WANT TO GET RIGHT TO ENSURE WE
HAVE THE BEST PRODUCT OUT IN THE
MARKETPLACE.

Steve says HOW MUCH MONEY DO
YOU THINK YOU'VE SPENT SO FAR
GETTING THIS THING TO WHERE IT IS?

Eyra says AT THE STARTUP PHASE, IT'S
ABOUT 10 GRAND.
IT'S VERY EARLY STAGES, LIKE I
SAID.
SO DEFINITELY THERE'S A LOT OF
SKILL CAPABILITIES, INVESTMENT
ON PEOPLE AND RESOURCES THAT
COME INTO PLAY.
BUT LIKE I SAID, I HAVE A GREAT
COMMUNITY OF PEOPLE HELPING TO
GET THIS APP UP AND RUNNING, AND
SO THAT IS ONE OF THE BEST
ADVANTAGES, TO ENSURE THAT IT
GOES WELL AND WE CAN TAKE IT TO
MARKET.

Steve says GOT IT.
I PUT UP ON MY FACEBOOK PAGE AND
MY TWITTER STREAM YESTERDAY A
30-SECOND VIDEO OF DAVID
LEPOFSKY, WHO WAS ALSO ON THIS
PROGRAM, I SHOWED IT TO YOU
BEFORE WE STARTED THIS.

Eyra says YES.

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Steve says OF DAVID WEARING
SUNGLASSES WHICH HAVE I GUESS
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IN THEM
THAT HOOK UP... HE'S VISUALLY
IMPAIRED... THEY HOOK UP TO HIS
SMARTPHONE.
AS HE'S WALKING DOWN THE STREET,
THE SUNGLASSES WITH THE SPEAKERS
ON THE SIDE SPEAK TO HIM AND
TELL HIM THE ADDRESSES HE'S
PASSING AND THE STORES THAT HE'S
PASSING.
THE NOTION THAT... LIKE,
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IS A
GAME CHANGER HERE, ISN'T IT?

Eyra says IT IS TOTALLY.

Steve says HOW SO?

Eyra says IT'S AMAZING.
OVER THE LAST THREE YEARS, JUST
SEEING HOW PEOPLE LIVING WITH A
DISABILITY CAN NOW BE ABLE TO
HAVE AN EQUAL AND LEVEL PLAYING
FIELD WITH ARTIFICIAL
INTELLIGENCE.
I'VE SEEN HOW PEOPLE WHO HAVE
EPILEPSY ARE NOW ABLE TO RECEIVE
AN ALERT OF A SEIZURE 30 MINUTES
IN ADVANCE WITH ARTIFICIAL
INTELLIGENCE.
I'VE SEEN HOW PEOPLE WITH VISION
IMPAIRMENT CAN USE AN APP AS
WELL OR EVEN JUST OTHER HARDWARE
DEVICES TO MONITOR AND EXPLORE
WHAT'S GOING ON AROUND THEM,
SIMILAR TO WHAT DAVID HAS.
AND I'VE SEEN LIKE PEOPLE WHO
HAVE LEARNING DISABILITIES WHO
ARE ABLE TO LEARN THE SAME
MATERIAL THAT WE ALL WANT TO
LEARN, BUT IN A DIFFERENT WAY
THAT IS MORE CUSTOMIZED TO WHAT
THEIR PARTICULAR LEARNING STYLE
AND NEEDS ARE.
SO ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE HAS A
TREMENDOUS OPPORTUNITY TO REALLY
LOWER THOSE BARRIERS IN OUR
SOCIETY FOR SURE.

Steve says AND WE ARE GOING
FOR, OBVIOUSLY, A SOCIETY THAT
IS AS BARRIER-FREE AS POSSIBLE.

Eyra says AND WE ARE, ESPECIALLY WHEN
WE HAVE THE LAWS AND REGULATIONS
THAT ARE TRYING TO ENSURE THAT
THOSE BARRIERS ARE REMOVED.
THIS IS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY FOR
OUR BUSINESSES AND ALSO OUR
FUTURE ENTREPRENEURS TO
CAPITALIZE AND HELP MAKE SURE
THAT THOSE BARRIERS ARE
ELIMINATED, YEAH.

Steve says I HOPE YOU MAKE
MILLIONS OF BUCKS OFF THIS
THING, BUT I DON'T KNOW... IS
THE PLAN HERE TO SORT OF GIVE IT
AWAY FOR FREE OR DO YOU WANT TO
SELL IT OR WHAT'S THE IDEA?

Eyra says THERE'S A COMMERCIAL
COMPONENT, OBVIOUSLY.
A LOT OF THE COMPANIES IN THIS
SPACE, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU'RE
DEALING WITH ACCESSIBILITY
TECHNOLOGY, IT IS... YOU NEED TO
MONETIZE, OBVIOUSLY, TO KEEP THE
PRODUCT RELEVANT IN THE
MARKETPLACE AND SEEING CHANGES
AND TECHNOLOGY IMPROVE.
WE CERTAINLY WANT THOSE MONIES
TO BE INVESTED RIGHT BACK INTO
THE BUSINESS, FOR SURE.

Steve says IN OUR LAST MINUTE
HERE, AS YOU LOOK AROUND
SOCIETY, AND WE TALKED ABOUT
THIS WITH DAVID AND THEA IN THE
PROGRAM AS WELL, THEA KURDI, WHO
IS WITH A GROUP CALLED
DesignABLE AND SHE IS TRYING TO
GET PEOPLE WHEN THEY DESIGN
BUILDINGS AND CITIES TO THINK
ABOUT THE DISABLED WHEN THEY DO THAT.

Eyra says YEAH.

Steve says DO YOU THINK
GENERALLY SPEAKING WE SPEND
ENOUGH BRAIN POWER FOCUSED ON
THE NEEDS OF DISABLED PEOPLE
WHEN WE DEVELOP NEW PRODUCTS,
DESIGN CITIES, ET CETERA?

Eyra says YOU KNOW WHAT?
I DON'T THINK SO.
I THINK THAT THAT IS A CHALLENGE
A LOT OF COMPANIES ARE NOT
OVERSEEING OR EVEN LOOKING AT.
ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE.
THERE IS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR
COMPANIES TO HAVE PEOPLE WHO
HAVE VARIOUS ABILITIES ON THE
TABLE AND BE A PART OF THE
PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT.
AND WHAT ENDS UP HAPPENING IS,
ESPECIALLY I KNOW WORKING IN A
STARTUP, THERE'S A LOT OF
ENCOURAGEMENT THAT YOU HAVE TO
GO OUT INTO THE MARKET QUICKLY
AND FAST.
WE WANT TO TEST WHOEVER WE CAN
GET OUR HANDS ON WHO CAN BE
POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS.
OVER TIME THAT CAN BECOME A
PROBLEM BECAUSE YOU HAVE
EXCLUDED PEOPLE WHO CAN BENEFIT
FROM THAT APP.
THEN WHEN YOU GO TO MARKET AND
YOU'RE GETTING COMPLAINTS OR
ISSUES FROM PEOPLE, WHETHER
THEY'RE LIVING WITH A DISABILITY
OR NOT, AND THEN THEY'RE TRYING
TO GO BACK TO ELIMINATE THOSE
ERRORS, THEY SPEND A LOT OF
MONEY AND RESOURCES TRYING TO
FIX IT, JUST TO MAKE SURE IT'S
USEABLE FOR THE MARKETPLACE.
SO THERE IS A HUGE BENEFIT FOR
ORGANIZATIONS TO GET INVOLVED
WITH THE DISABILITY COMMUNITY
AND GET THEM HELPING USING THE
PRODUCTS AND GET FEEDBACK FROM
THEM FROM THE VERY BEGINNING,
AND THEN YOU CAN DEFINITELY
ENSURE THAT YOU HAVE A PRODUCT
THAT IS NOT JUST USEFUL FOR THEM
OR PEOPLE LIVING WITH A
DISABILITY, BUT FOR EVERYONE,
YEAH.

The caption changes to "Producer: Meredith Martin, @MeredithMartin."

Steve says GOTCHA.
WE WISH YOU GREAT GOOD FORTUNE
WITH THIS.

Eyra says OH GREAT. THANK YOU.

Steve says IT'S CALLED LISNEN,
L-I-S-N-E-N, EYRA ABRAHAM IT'S
FOUNDER AND CEO HAS
BEEN OUR GUEST.
THANKS, EYRA.

Eyra says THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR
HAVING ME.

Watch: How Can AI Assist Accessibility