Bridging the accessibility gap in data science

Researchers from the Global Research and Education Alliance for Accessible Techn
Researchers from the Global Research and Education Alliance for Accessible Technology network at Google’s Accessibility Discovery Centre in London

Researchers from Cardiff University are developing ways to bridge the accessibility gap in data science as part of the Research and Education Alliance for Accessible Technology (GREAAT).

The team from the University’s Data Science Academy, in collaboration with experts from across the UK, the USA and Canada, are mapping out the global landscape of data accessibility and identifying specific requirements for sectors, including universities, SMEs, large corporations, and government entities.

From addressing the needs of people with disabilities to catering for businesses and academic institutions striving for inclusivity in their operations, they say the demand for accessible data solutions is paramount.

Dr Fernando Loizides, Director of the Data Science Academy based at Cardiff Univeristy’s School of Computer Science and Informatics, said: "Accessibility is often playing catchup rather than being included from the start in almost everything.

"Artificial Intelligence for example has been trained on models that are not inclusive to facilitate an understanding of interaction with neurodivergent individuals.

"To combat this, we’re investigating ways of incorporating accessibility within curriculum, mapping opportunities globally for our community to support each other and spotlight accessibility in both education and system creation."

At an event hosted in Google’s Accessibility Discovery Centre in London, the network held a series of workshops to break down complex challenges, identify underlying needs, and devise innovative solutions.

The workshops followed Disney’s creative thinking strategy, a simple, brainstorming process to generate new products or solutions to problems and consisting of three phases - the dreamer, the realist, and the critic - conducted separately with no overlap.

Dr Loizides added: "Our workshops at the Google offices underscored the need for inclusivity in data science and reaffirmed our efforts to champion accessibility on a global scale.

"Moving forward we will be continuing to cultivate our robust multidisciplinary network, fostering alliances with diverse stakeholders, spanning academia to industry leaders, with the aim of driving meaningful change across sectors.

"For us in Cardiff, this means spearheading and leading a global initiative that will benefit millions of people and more than that, inform a more inclusive teaching and research environment within the University. I’m excited to see what we can achieve."

GREAAT, which started as a collaboration between Cardiff University, Maryland University, McGill University, Swansea University, Kings College London, and the University of York, has since grown to include over 20 universities around the globe.

The network recently received seed grant support from Cardiff University’s Digital Transformation Innovation Institute to help it grow and move forward.