Leonard Cheshire develops AI system to overcome assessor shortage

25 September 2020

Pan-disability charity Leonard Cheshire is developing an artificial intelligence (AI) system capable of assessing the needs of a disabled person and recommending assistive technology products to help them.

Working with software company Atvisor, Leonard Cheshire has developed a prototype and is now looking for funds to build the next stage of the system.

The charity has been hit by an acute assessor shortage with nine month waiting lists for a basic assessment. Leonard Cheshire supports 12,500 disabled people in the UK via 160 services, mostly care facilities ranging from 24-bed care homes to smaller units housing four or five people.

“Assessment is really important: great though technology is if you get the wrong tech mix it is all for nought,” Steve Tyler, Director of Assistive Technology at Leonard Cheshire, told a recent meeting of BATA’s Workplace Special Interest Group.

“We asked ‘can we use AI to build a knowledgebase of needs and build a therapist into your desktop?’  We have now got a working prototype that shows this can work.

“An individual fills in a form that poses questions that anyone can answer. The system then creates a profile and makes recommendations. This leads to a show and tell by those who could supply a product to you.”

The AI system also has the ability to learn from previous assessments and comes out of work that Leonard Cheshire has done on using a person’s brainwaves to control environmental devices and write text. The charity has also collaborated with Google and Amazon on improving the accessibility of their services.

“A vast amount of time is spent by people going to exhibitions and demoing products. This will form a UK catalogue of products. So, we can target products effectively,” says Tyler.

“There is a service called Ask Sarah from Disabled Living Foundation (DLF). which does some of the things we are doing. We are planning to make a Leonard Cheshire version of it with DLF. There seems to be a real shortage of translating what’s out there into how you use it: what pieces do you put together.”

Tyler is quick to point out that the AI system will not obviate the need for human assessment. “We can’t do away with human intervention we will need human observation and translation of needs into solutions because more people are living with disabilities.”