Zammo Applies Voice AI to Bridge Vision and Other Accessibility Barriers for People Applying for Jobs Online

San Francisco-based Zammo.AI is utilizing its expertise as subject matter experts in voice artificial intelligence (voice AI) to improve the features and functionality of online job boards. Their technology enhancements are making it easier for people with blindness, low vision, and other accessibility needs to apply for jobs.

Zammo is beginning a new project with funding by a recently-awarded grant from Microsoft’s  AI for Accessibility program. Their challenge: applying voice technologies to create accessibility-friendly interfaces for online job boards. Zammo team is harnessing the transformative power of conversational AI to help people who are blind or have low vision, have limited dexterity or other specific access needs find the job of their dreams; while also creating a path to inclusivity for businesses and organizations. 

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Not familiar with Conversational AI? That’s ok… it’s an emerging technology behind automated messaging and speech-enabled applications that offer human-like interactions between computers and people. Conversational AI allows sophisticated communication by recognizing speech and text, understanding intent, deciphering different languages, and responding in a way that mimics human conversation.

Zammo’s contribution to the Microsoft AI for Accessibility program is part of a five-year effort dedicated to leveraging the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning (ML) to amplify human capability for the more than one billion people around the world with disabilities.

“We are thrilled for the opportunity that Zammo’s work can introduce in reducing barriers for employment of people with disabilities,” said Mary Bellard, principal innovation architect lead at Microsoft and AI for Accessibility program lead. “These kinds of efforts are a needed step in bridging the disability divide and ensuring that people around the world with disabilities have access to employment opportunities.”

Job seekers with specific access needs may be unable to navigate or gather information from job boards due to the design or layout of the site itself. Many pages are not designed to be accessed using screen readers that convert text to voice or braille, while others cannot be navigated without the use of a mouse, which can result in the exclusion of  potentially qualified candidates from the applicant pool.

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“In the last few years, there has been a lot of talk about inclusivity and accessibility, which is an important development that was long overdue,” said CEO Alex Farr. “This grant will allow us to take our accessibility efforts to the next level by leveraging voice technology and AI for people with visual impairments in the job market. Simply looking for a job shouldn’t be so difficult, and our work can help make accessibility a reality for everyone.” 

 To ensure that the end solution addresses the real needs of people with disabilities, Zammo will continue its partnership with Open Inclusion, an inclusive insight, design and innovation consultancy agency. This project aligns with Open Inclusion’s purpose – making the world more inclusive and leveraging technology to solve current needs by reducing frictions in new ways.

“The research done to date has evidenced how and where people find today’s job search solutions difficult or inaccessible and gathered perspectives on individuals’ interest, experience, expectations or concerns relating to voice-based interactions,” said Christine Hemphill, managing director at Open Inclusion. “There is significant interest in the community and also many valuable considerations to take into account in the designs. It is great to see the research now fueling the designs that Zammo is working on.”

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Zammo’s project, which began in October 2021, is broken down into four key phases: research, ideation, prototyping and MVP open-source development. The research team is currently conducting user interviews and surveys to validate the most significant accessibility issues in the job search journey, as well as existing job board providers and resource providers.

 Insights from the research will feed into validation and compiling the most accessible and impactful technology solutions and experiential designs. Through ideation sessions among industry experts and the use of prototypes, Zammo will continue to validate the pain points and ideal solutions for end users.

At the end of the project, Zammo will provide an open-source library exposing the technical and design assets of the solution for all to leverage and deploy, with the goal of increasing its wide-spread adoption across major job boards and service providers while allowing the community to contribute to the assets and extend its reach.

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