In the face of the current health and economic crisis, it is important to be able to provide all citizens with the information they need to understand the situation and find answers. However, as Unapei member associations have pointed out, people with intellectual disabilities do not have access to this multiple and complex information. This is why the Cap’FALC project makes sense with a new digital tool developed thanks to the skills of Inria, Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research and Unapei.
Cap’FALC aims to significantly advance access to information for all and to facilitate the sustainable participation of people with intellectual disabilities in the life of society.
Access to information: a major societal challenge for people with intellectual disabilities
In this period of crisis, every individual needs to know what to do to protect himself, to understand his rights, to be informed about the reality of this complex situation. And as proof: television news channels are enjoying their highest ratings of the decade. But this information conveyed by the major national media is still very often inaccessible to people with intellectual disabilities.
A truly supportive and inclusive society must enable people with intellectual disabilities to be citizens like others, and in particular to be informed. This is the objective of the FALC method, developed in 2009 by European associations of people with intellectual disabilities and their families. This method makes it possible to make information accessible to all people who have difficulties in understanding. It is based on the expertise of people with disabilities and implies that they are at the heart of the production of written material that is easy to read and understand.
Also, since the beginning of the health crisis, the Unapei member associations have been producing and publishing documents in FALC: validated derogatory travel certificates, information on the coronavirus, explanations of barrier gestures. And today, clarifications on the deconfinement and on the realization of the tests. These documents in FALC relayed on the site https://unisetsolidaires.unapei.org/, by the Government and by certain media have enabled many people with intellectual disabilities to better understand the period of confinement. The Secretary of State for Disabled Persons has also already published two FALC sheets, accessible on www.handicap.gouv.fr, one on the new rules associated with deconfinement and the other designed to help disabled persons to choose between remaining confined or deconfining after 11 May.
Cap’FALC, a digital tool for an inclusive society
To date, many associations, including 15 ESATs (Établissements et services d’aide par le travail) managed by associations of the Unapei movement, have developed an activity of transcription of texts in FALC by workers or volunteers with disabilities. These associations regularly transcribe texts entrusted by companies and administrations to make them accessible to all.
However, the number of writings available in FALC remains insufficient! In view of the absolute necessity to improve access to information for all, it becomes essential to facilitate the work of transcribers in FALC.
Cap’FALC’s objective is to develop an accessible digital tool that meets this precise need by facilitating the production of texts in FALC thanks to a transcription aid algorithm. The research project used to develop the tool is the subject of a thesis supervised by INRIA and Facebook AI Research.
“What I particularly like about this project, in which I am currently working to develop the algorithm that will be used by Unapei, is the fact that it puts cutting-edge research in Artificial Intelligence at the service of inclusion,” says Louis Martin, PhD student in charge of developing the tool. “It’s motivating to know exactly what my research work will be used for and to be able to make it evolve according to the needs of the people who will use it”.
The Cap’FALC project aims to reduce the isolation and exclusion of people with intellectual disabilities by improving the accessibility of information through the widespread use of Easy to Read and Understand (FALC). This project will be operational in 2021.
“FALC is a kind of universal language that speaks to everyone. Initially designed to enable people with intellectual disabilities to understand certain texts, it is proving to be a formidable driving force in the service of dyslexic and visually impaired people, as well as foreigners with a poor command of a language, illiterate people, the elderly and primary school children. Moreover, Europe has been involved in the FALC since 2009 with the mission of reducing the social divide linked to language,” underlines Sophie Cluzel, Secretary of State for People with Disabilities.
People with intellectual disabilities at the heart of the Cap’FALC project
People with intellectual disabilities are fully involved in the project at all stages of its development. Their experience in transcription and their expertise in its use are indispensable.
“Unapei and its associations have always been pioneers in making information accessible to people with intellectual disabilities. At a time when demand is growing, Cap’FALC will make it possible to meet that demand while capitalizing on the user expertise so essential for people with disabilities in the production of texts in FALC for a more accessible and inclusive society,” said Luc Gateau, President of Unapei.
Antoine Bordes, Director of Facebook AI Research, also adds:
“This is a very important project for the Facebook AI Research teams. In our fundamental research laboratory in artificial intelligence, we seek excellence in our work, but above all, we want these advances to serve the common good and be put to work for everyone. We are delighted to be a founding partner of this unique project and look forward to seeing the first results. Cap’Falc will have a very concrete impact on the daily lives of thousands of people in France”.
The algorithm uses the latest advances in artificial intelligence and language processing for the FALC transcription task. This research work, carried out by Inria and Facebook AI Research, has already resulted in several scientific publications presented at international conferences.
This algorithm will work in a similar way to a spell checker, which finds passages in a text, proposes solutions but does not correct without human validation. Thus, while the tool developed will be a valuable aid for disabled people responsible for transcribing texts into FALC, it will in no way replace their intervention at all stages of the writing process; it is their eyes that validate a text as accessible and easy to read and understand.
The Cap’FALC project is sponsored by the French Secretary of State for Disabled Persons and brings together Unapei, the main French associative movement in the field of intellectual and cognitive disabilities, Inria, the National Research Institute for Digital Sciences, and FAIR, Facebook’s artificial intelligence research laboratory. The project is supported by Malakoff Humanis via the CCAH (Comité national coordination action handicap).