Workshop on AI Fairness for People with Disabilities

Shari Trewin, Meredith Ringel Morris, Stacy Branham, Walter S. Lasecki, Shiri Azenkot, Nicole Bleuel, Shiri Azenkot, Phill Jenkins, and Jeffrey P. Bigham

Organizers of the ASSETS 2019 Workshop on AI Fairness for People with Disabilities


This year the ASSETS conference is hosting a workshop on AI Fairness for People with Disabilities the day before the main conference program begins. This workshop will bring together forty participants to discuss the practical, ethical, and legal ramifications of emerging AI-powered technologies for people with disabilities. We organized this workshop because artificial intelligence is increasingly being used in decision-making that directly impacts people’s lives. 

Much has been written about the potential for AI methods to encode, perpetuate, and even amplify discrimination against marginalized groups in society. Like age, gender, and race, disability status is a protected characteristic. Disability status has many dimensions, varies in intensity and impact, and often changes over time; yet, today’s methods for bias testing tend to simply split individuals into members of a protected group and “others.” Disability information is also highly sensitive and not always shared, precisely because of the potential for discrimination; AI systems may not have explicit information about disability that can be used to apply established fairness tests and corrections. Finally, some disabilities have relatively low rates of occurrence; in current algorithmic processes, these individuals can appear as data outliers rather than part of a recognizable subgroup. These are just three examples of how theory and practice of AI require scrutiny to ensure fair treatment of people with disabilities.

Workshop participants will examine AI fairness, accountability, transparency, and ethics (FATE) for the specific situations of people with disabilities. The workshop’s goal is to develop community across disciplines in the area of AI FATE as it regards people with disabilities, towards developing new research directions and collaborations and strategic action plans for increasing impact in research, industry, and policy.

There will be seventeen position papers featured at the workshop, half presented as short talks and half as posters. Position paper authors have been invited to prepare versions of their articles for the SIGACCESS Newsletter. This month’s newsletter features eight articles, covering topics such as the complex nature of justice, how to operationalize fairness, challenges to fairness particularly for deaf and hard of hearing users, the importance of empowering individuals to make their own risk/benefit tradeoffs, the need for explainable AI, the risk of AI encoding and perpetuating stereotypes about disability, the privacy tradeoffs that must be considered by AI systems that convey sensory information, and the importance and challenge of creating disability datasets. A future edition of the newsletter will feature additional articles from the workshop, as well as a summary of the day’s events. You can also follow some of the workshop-related discussions on Twitter by searching the hashtag #FATE4PWD