NeuroAbilities is G3ict’s dedicated program to explore the current state of assistive solutions based on advanced neurotechnologies, Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), enabling persons with disabilities and older persons to better interact with their environment.
G3ict is the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information Communication Technologies. To read more about us, please visit our website here.
The NeuroAbilities Webinar Series was launched by Patrick McGovern, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Patrick J. McGovern Foundation on November 17, 2020.
The convergence of innovations in neurosciences and information technologies will lead to assistive solutions potentially improving the lives of hundreds of millions of persons with disabilities. Those will emerge through multi-disciplinary collaborations and knowledge sharing among neuroscientists, information technologists, assistive technology providers, end users and caregivers.
The purpose of NeuroAbilities is to document and improve the knowledge of neurotechnologies and Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI) applied to assistive technologies for persons with disabilities while fostering exchanges among a community of involved stakeholders, exploring innovation, real-world solutions, end user perspectives, as well as security, societal and ethical issues.
Context of NeuroAbilities within G3ict’s Mission of Promoting the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Art. 4. of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) - “General Obligations” specifies that States Parties commit:
(g) To undertake or promote research and development of, and to promote the availability and use of new technologies, including information and communications technologies, mobility aids, devices and assistive technologies, suitable for persons with disabilities, giving priority to technologies at an affordable cost;
(h) To provide accessible information to persons with disabilities about mobility aids, devices and assistive technologies, including new technologies, as well as other forms of assistance, support services and facilities.
AI-enabled neurotechnologies are emerging as an entirely new field of innovation in assistive solutions that can transform the lives of millions of persons with disabilities. And while neurotechnologies and Brain-Computer Interfaces have been explored for a while, competition and research and development investments are accelerating with major players entering the field showing definite progress towards marketable solutions. This is a very new development with considerable implications and currently little interaction occurring between ecosystem participants and persons with disabilities.
- Neuroscientists and technologists from public, private, and academic research institutions
- Disability organizations and BCI technology and neurotech end users, advocates, and caregivers
- Assistive technology and information technology industries, wearable technology vendors, private sector R&D, and startups
- Granting organizations, government agencies, and venture capitalists
- Accessibility and rehabilitation professionals, special educators, and post-secondary faculty and students
Language & Communication about Disabilities
Committed to promoting innovation in assistive solutions based on Artificial Intelligence and Brain-Computer Interface technologies in the context of the dispositions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on digital accessibility and assistive technologies, G3ict and the NeuroAbilities community recognize:
- The essential principle of user-centered design throughout its agenda, always keeping in mind the role of agency of the end users, i.e., persons with disabilities, emphasizing the person-first language in harmony with the global disability movement’s systematic adherence towards the Social Model of disability rights and inclusion; and
- The eminent history and legacy of neuroscientists and relevant industrialists, who have stood behind the development of extensive neurotechnology-based programs to improve the quality of life and equal access opportunities for persons with disabilities, by researching and developing innovative assistive solutions relying on the study of the various functionality modes and levels of the human body.
With the above in mind, G3ict and the NeuroAbilities Community recognize and respect the nuanced approaches and terminologies being imposed by the two spectrums of disability rights and neurosciences.
While the Social Model-based terminology is the only language accepted by the global disability movement today, the language derived from focusing on the study of the human body’s functionalities, including but not limited to the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health, remains necessary for accurate communications among researchers, therapists and medical professionals. It is G3ict’s and NeuroAbilities participants’ consensus, however, that therapeutic and medical contexts may not imply politically incorrect terminology reflecting the medical model of disability.
Therefore, G3ict and the NeuroAbilities Community see this as an opportunity and are committing themselves to engaging neuroscientists and persons with disabilities and their representing organizations in a systematic dialogue, bridging gaps caused by conceptual and language usage differences between those two groups.
This dialogue should lead to a better mutual understanding as an essential segue to promoting the ultimate objective of the NeuroAbilities initiative, i.e., ensuring the human rights of persons with disabilities to equality, quality of life, and full dignity.