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February 23, 2024 | 6:00 PM

#HackDisability: AI for Accessibility

From February 23 to February 25, the Howe Innovation Center and MIT CSAIL hosted #HackDisability: AI for Accessibility, a hackathon powered by lead sponsor Amazon.

A hackathon at the intersection of innovation and disability

The Howe Innovation Center and MIT CSAIL hosted #HackDisability: AI for Accessibility – a hackathon that brought together diverse teams of software and hardware engineers, students, product managers, MBAs, designers, and people with the lived experience of having a disability, with the shared goal of developing innovative AI solutions to enhance accessibility for people with disabilities.

#HackDisability: AI for Accessibility was powered by lead sponsor Amazon.

The three winning #HackDisability projects:

  • Will be displayed during select evening programs this summer at the Museum of Science
  • Have received $2,500 each to continue their projects
  • [MIT students only] Have received acceptance in the MIT Sandbox Spring 2024 cohort with $1,000 grant funding and access to mentors and expert advisors for startup teams through the summer of 2024

Innovation challenges

Over the three-day event, each group identified, designed, built, tested, and iterated on prototype solutions to known challenges facing the disability community.

A profile of a head with several circles floating around it

AI for diagnostics

How might AI, in combination with Perkins’ unique approach, identify babies and children at risk of CVI, the leading cause of childhood blindness, so that they can receive urgent assessment?

For more insight, here’s Rachel Bennett, Director of CVI Now, Parent Advocacy and Support at the CVI Center at Perkins, on why AI for diagnostics matters.

Three people - one using a mobility cane, one standing with their arms raised and one using a wheelchair

AI for accommodation

How can AI assess physical spaces and situations, and recommend accessibility improvements for people with all types of disabilities, including those that affect visual, auditory, mobility and/or neurocognitive experiences?

A hand holding a smartphone with a heart on screen

AI for care management

How might AI streamline the coordination and scheduling of care management — medical appointments, educational responsibilities, professional commitments and leisure activities — for people with disabilities and / or their caregivers?

A megaphone

AI for communication

How can AI support personalized communication for people with disabilities – matching their desired tone, personality, etc.?

For more insight, here’s Jon Mowl, founder of Play with ASL, on why AI for communication matters.

Two people speaking to one another. A word bubble between them contains a question mark.

AI for emotional interpretation

How can AI support social learning and interactions in real-time for people with disabilities who may not be able to experience social cues?

For more insight, here’s William Budding, Talent Acquisition & Recruiting Professional, on why AI for emotional interpretation matters.

Map with pin

AI for outdoor wayfinding

How can AI help people with disabilities understand and react to unsafe situations in the physical world?

A person walking with a white cane

AI for indoor wayfinding

How can AI help people who are blind and visually impaired navigate inside busy public spaces including transit stations, airports, and hospitals?

For more insight, here’s Minh Ha, Assistive Technology Manager at Perkins School for the Blind, on why AI for indoor wayfinding matters.

A teacher in front of a chalkboard and reading from a book

AI for teaching and learning adaptations

How might AI recommend teaching strategies or adaptations, tailored to the learning styles of individual students?

For more insight, here’s Noye, a teacher of the visually impaired at Perkins School for the Blind, on why AI for teaching and learning adaptations matters.

A person writing and drawing on a white board

AI for authoring infographics

How could generative AI allow blind and visually impaired people to reliably create infographics from plain-language text descriptions, without the need for advanced Excel or programming skills?

For more insight, here’s Josh Miele, principal accessibility researcher at Amazon, on why AI for easily creating infographics matters.

Stay in the innovation conversation.

Innovation can’t happen without all of us. Together, we can solve real accessibility problems.

If you want more from-the-front-lines perspective on what’s happening across the DisabilityTech market, join the Howe Innovation Center community. You’ll get members-only access to resources and insight that’s not available anywhere else, including our white paper, Defining DisabilityTech: The Rise of Inclusive Innovation.

Hosted by:

Howe Innovation Center


MIT: Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory

Powered by lead sponsor:

Amazon logo



MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund Program


Wegmans logo


About #HackDisability Hosts

MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory’s vision is a world where computing empowers people and enhances all human experiences. That’s why CSAIL’s mission is to pioneer new research in computing that improves the way people globally live, work, play, and learn. We focus on developing fundamental new technologies, conducting basic research that furthers the field of computing, and inspiring and educating future generations of scientists and technologists. CSAIL is a driving force behind computing becoming increasingly integrated into our lives, attracting original thinkers who imagine and build computing technologies that better our world.

The Howe Innovation Center’s goal is to accelerate innovation to make the world more accessible for people with disabilities. We connect people with disabilities with the innovation community – entrepreneurs, technology companies, consumer products companies, and others engaged in innovation initiatives – to discover and tackle the most pressing accessibility problems in employment, education and daily living.