Fundación ONCE Addresses Accessibility Barriers

woman in wheelchair moving from her dining room towards her kitchen

Citibeats was founded on the belief that artificial intelligence should benefit society. As such, we teamed up with Fundación ONCE, an organization in Spain focused on promoting full inclusion for individuals with disabilities. Together, we identified the top barriers faced by people with disabilities in Spain by analyzing more than 300,000 opinions collected on Twitter.


Project Background

Spain imposed a nationwide state of alarm to fight COVID-19. The measures adopted in the new normal have contributed to new barriers for people with disabilities. 

Citibeats technology structured and visualized citizen opinions to create an accessibility map. Decision-makers could then use this information to steer programs and initiatives designed to meet this population’s greatest needs.

The opinions collected were structured into four types of disabilities:

  • Visual
  • Hearing
  • Cognitive
  • Physical

...and into five types of barriers:

  • Building environment
  • Transportation
  • Communication & interaction
  • Social & cultural
  • Intersectional

Key Findings

The purpose of the analysis was to identify the barriers that Spanish citizens with disabilities face most frequently and what differences exist between groups. Among the data collected, there was a special focus on the impact of the pandemic and the role of video games and 3D printing in social inclusion.

Types of Barriers in Spain

The most widely reported barriers for those with cognitive disabilities were cultural and social (37%). Narratives reported a lack of empathy for the difficulties faced by this group. The second-largest barrier was communication, which represented 35% of comments.

For those with visual disabilities, communication and interaction were the most noted barriers (58%). There was also discussion of initiatives to facilitate the communication autonomy of people with visual disabilities. Other major topics of conversation included barriers in the building environment (18%) and transportation (14%).

According to the analyzed comments, the main barrier for the hearing impaired community was communication and interaction (81%). Demands for greater investment in support systems in public services, such as LSE interpreters, stood out.

Among those with physical disabilities, complaints and proposed solutions related to barriers in the building environment were the most prevalent (43%), followed by barriers in communication and interaction (24%) and transportation (20%).

graphic displaying volume of opinions about barriers and types of disabilities

What Citizens Think

For each of the four types of disabilities, we collected qualitative insights from the stories that citizens shared on social networks.

Within the visual disability community, there was positive discussion about two key topics: the Madrid City Council beginning to include visual and hearing impairment aid for home interior adaptation and Microsoft’s announcement that the Seeing AI app would be available in Spanish. On the negative side, despite the positive intentions of these initiatives, there were complaints about how audiobooks, audio descriptions, and braille keywords worked.

Among those with cognitive disabilities, there were favorable mentions of increased signs of empathy and solidarity among autistic children. How confinement has helped those with Down syndrome handle tasks without haste also garnered attention. 

Topics around hearing impairment ranged from complaints about the withdrawal of LSE interpreters for online classes to debate about a video on Twitter of a person without a hearing impairment teaching sign language.

The Role of Video Games and 3D Printing in Social Inclusion

There’s positive sentiment about new technologies that address some of the barriers that people with disabilities face. 

Comments mentioned the creation of 3D prostheses and implants, the first middle ear transplant using 3D technology, and the Ayúdame3D project in Spain that manufactures 3D arms for people around the world who can’t afford the cost of a conventional prosthesis. We also saw more inclusion in video games with the development of “The Recycling Heroes,” an educational game with different accessibility options, like sign language, easy reading, and audio description. Additionally, there was much celebration surrounding the launch of a PS4 video game starring a character with autism.

The Effect of COVID-19 on People with Disabilities 

Teleworking has brought both new communication barriers and technological solutions for people with visual and hearing disabilities. In addition, people with cognitive disabilities have suffered discrimination and lack of empathy during confinement and subsequent measures. New logistical barriers have also emerged for people with physical disabilities. 

Final Thoughts

Thanks to Citibeats’ artificial intelligence and natural language processing model, the Fundación ONCE social listening project identified and mapped the barriers that groups of people with disabilities face. 

“The digitization of society, citizen participation channels and social networks have become platforms for expressing citizen demands. This makes citizen opinions a rich source of information to identify those problems that most concern society. “

This project is a perfect example of how leaders can use technology to bring citizens into the decision-making process and produce positive change. 

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