Speech Accessibility Project’s three newest partners are dedicated to people with cerebral palsy

Organizations who serve people with cerebral palsy are providing crucial support to the Speech Accessibility Project.
Published on July 9, 2024

The Speech Accessibility Project is partnering with several organizations who serve people with cerebral palsy as it recruits more participants for its speech recognition technology work. They include ADAPT Community Network, the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and CP Unlimited.

The project is recruiting U.S. and Puerto Rican adults with cerebral palsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Down syndrome, Parkinson’s and those who have had a stroke. Funded by Big Tech companies Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta and Microsoft, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is using the project to train voice recognition technologies to understand people with diverse speech patterns and disabilities.

Mark Hasagawa-JohnsonMark Hasegawa-Johnson.“These partnerships are critical to the mission of the Speech Accessibility Project because they put us in contact with people for whom current technology is not yet accessible,” said Mark Hasegawa-Johnson, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and the lead researcher on the Speech Accessibility Project. “We want to create a communication channel by which those people can help speech technologists to create better, more accessible technologies in the near future.”

The Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation has also shared the project’s recruitment materials.

ADAPT Community Network

Ronak ParikhRonak Parikh.ADAPT Community Network, formerly United Cerebral Palsy of New York City, is a non-profit organization and pioneer in providing cutting-edge programs and services that improve the quality of life for people with disabilities and their families in New York City. Its programs include advocating for accessible public education for all, community residential opportunities for adults, family support services for children, adults and caregivers, advancement in assistive technology, and creating opportunities for employment.

Ronak Parikh, the organization’s senior vice president of community and business development, said ADAPT believes the Speech Accessibility Project will “ultimately improve the speech recognition capabilities of everyday technology so that they too can use and take advantage of technology that many of us take for granted.

“This project also aligns with our Smart Homes Initiative, where we are implementing different technology in our residential programs to allow people that we support to live more independently with less staff assistance,” he said.

ADAPT staff members are promoting the project to those they serve who have atypical speech. ADAPT is also sharing information about the project and its possible technology implications across statewide and national cerebral palsy networks.

Cerebral Palsy Foundation

Ashley Harris Whaley.

The Cerebral Palsy Foundation’s mission is to be a catalyst for creating positive change for people with CP. The foundation supports 17 million people with CP worldwide, and works across health care, education, advocacy and awareness, and design and technology.

“We are passionate about expanding ease of use and access to technology for people with cerebral palsy,” said Ashley Harris Whaley, director of adult programs, which she said is an important reason the foundation is working with the Speech Accessibility Project. “We see the foundation's role in this project as a system of support for both the [University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign] team and our community, while serving as a connection point between our community and this amazing work that is happening."

CP Unlimited

Sebastian ChittilappillySebastian Chittilappilly.

CP Unlimited promotes opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to achieve fulfilling lives. The agency offers comprehensive, person-centered residential, Day Hab and Article 16 services to people with disabilities via a staff of 2,500 committed team members.

“The Speech Accessibility Project is an important step forward for the field as well as CP Unlimited,” said Sebastian Chittilappilly, chief of programs at CP Unlimited. “By informing the programs and devices that help people with cerebral palsy communicate with caregivers and other loved ones, these technologies can be refined to help the greatest number of persons with disabilities.”

Marilyn Ladewig, CP Unlimited’s speech language pathology supervisor, said the project will make a huge difference for those with CP.

“Being understood by technology can mean the difference between paying a bill easily or calling 911 with your voice,” she said. “As a speech language pathologist, having automatic speech recognition work for the developmentally different population would mean more and better communication for my patients.”

CP Unlimited is committed to integrating digital tools to better learn, improve, and deliver best-in-class services in its varied settings in New York City, Yonkers and the Hudson Valley.

Interested in joining the project? Sign up online here.