Disability Discrimination Using AI Systems, Social Media and Digital Platforms: Can We Disable Digital Bias?
26 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2021
Date Written: November 3, 2020
Social media platforms and digital technological tools have transformed how people manage their day-to-day lives, socially as well as professionally. Big data algorithms help us improve our decision-making processes, and sophisticated social networks, enable us to get connected to other individuals and organizations, get exposed to information, and even learn about different opportunities. But as individuals come to be more and more comfortable with social networks and big data algorithms, fewer give much thought to how personal data gleaned from social networks and fed into algorithms affects the administration of government and the provision of private services. Algorithmic assessment of personal characteristics enables widescale discrimination by government and private entities, and such discrimination is particularly pernicious for persons with disabilities.
According to the social model of disability, disability is not only inherent to the individual and determined by the impairment but is also a product of the social environment. Social expectations, conventions, and technology determine which traits are outside the norm and which traits are disabling. Whether a technology perpetuates or mitigates disability depends on social norms, including norms that are embedded in law. A wheelchair might mitigate the impairment, but only if legal rules dictate a built environment where wheelchair users and non-wheelchair users can move in a similar fashion, can the disability be mitigated. Similarly, digital technologies can limit the ways in which some traits are disabling only if bias and discriminatory features against individuals with disabilities are not embedded within their use. We must ensure that technology developments continue to improve the life quality and opportunities for individuals with disabilities, and that we design systems that better accommodate the disabled, enhance their access, and help level the playing field between them and the able-bodied. We should regulate to ensure that individuals with disabilities are legally protected from discrimination. Additionally, and not less importantly, we must make sure that individuals with disabilities are not left out of innovations because of the difficulty in detecting the different types of disabilities as well as disability bias, proving it, and designing around it.
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