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Today at OCAD University, the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, announced several initiatives to support youth leaders in their efforts to build a more accessible Canada. At the event, Minister Qualtrough announced that OCAD U’s Inclusive Research Design Centre (IDRC) will receive $1.7 million in funding from the Accessible Technology Program. This announcement, on behalf of the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, will support the Coding to Learn and Create project. Coding to Learn and Create will develop new inclusive educational coding tools that will support the participation of students with complex learning needs, and will share critically-needed teaching resources and strategies to help educators teach more inclusively. The program is led by OCAD U’s IDRC, in partnership with Bridges Canada.

As a university that values accessibility, cultural diversity and equitable global citizenship, OCAD U is proud to support the IDRC, under the direction of Dr. Jutta Treviranus. The largest centre of its kind in the world, the centre’s goal is to make sure that everyone can participate in shaping and using the systems and networks that are transforming and connecting our society.

Research Inclusive Design (INCD)
l-r: Dr. Treviranus, Colin Clark, Associate Director, IDRC and Minister Qualtrough. Photo: Martin Iskander.
Heather Robson, Acting Director, Research Services, Colin Clark, Associate Director, IDRC, Dr. Treviranus, Minister Qualtrough,
Faculty member Dr. Jutta Treviranus wins Women in AI award

Entrepreneurs, researchers, disruptors, innovators and social activists from across Canada, Mexico and the United States came together virtually for the Women in AI (WAI) Awards North America on May 13, 2022. The ceremony honoured top female leaders in artificial intelligence (AI) who are paving new ways in the field. 
Faculty of Design Professor Dr. Jutta Treviranus was among the eight recipients of this year's awards and was recognized with the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) AI Leader of the Year Award at the prestigious event.  

“I am honoured and humbled to have been chosen from among such an amazing group of women from across North America,” Dr. Treviranus said of winning the award.  

“I need to acknowledge my team and the global community that helps in ensuring that human and machine decision systems treat people who are outliers and small minorities equitably,” she continued.    

Dr. Treviranus was celebrated, in part, for her work as the founder and director of the Inclusive Design Research Centre, an international community of open-source developers, designers, researchers, educators and co-designers who work together to proactively ensure that emerging technology and practices are designed inclusively.  

She has worked in the disability and digital inclusion field since 1979 and has since played a pivotal role in the development of accessibility legislation globally. Her first AI research project investigated the use of voice recognition and dysarthric speech in the 1980s. Dr. Treviranus established the Inclusive Design Research Centre in 1993, which helped to establish the practice of inclusive design that has since been adopted by large companies like Microsoft and the public sector internationally. In 2011, Dr. Treviranus led the creation of the Inclusive Design graduate program at OCAD U.  

“Designing with and addressing the complex challenges of people who are marginalized will benefit all of us. It will mean we are all better able to respond and adapt to unexpected change, detect emerging risks. It will help us reduce disparity, and it may help lift us out of current and future crises,” Dr. Treviranus commented. 
In 2013, she continued her work in AI research through a collaboration with the Government of Ontario’s Department of Transportation, evaluating automated vehicle machine learning models. She discovered that AI would amplify, accelerate and automate discrimination against outliers and small minorities and proposed AI systems that could address these inequities. She continued to address AI’s bias against minority groups and the implications for persons with disabilities in 2014, catalyzing a movement that has spread through talks, publications and research.  

Women in AI is a global network of female experts and professionals in the field of artificial intelligence working towards inclusivity in AI. The organization is led by some of the most prominent and influential women in the field and has more than 8,500 members across 140 countries.  

The WAI Awards are sponsored by iconic organizations in AI in Canada, including the Montreal-based machine learning research institute Mila, the Edmonton-based centre focused on industry applications of AI Amii and the University of Toronto partnered Vector Institute. 

The runner-up for the DEI AI Leader of the Year Award was Allison Cohen who is an Applied AI Project Lead, AI for Humanity at Mila. In this role Cohen works with AI researchers and social science experts on socially beneficial AI projects that have included a misogyny detection tool, an application that can identify online activity that is suspected of containing human trafficking victims and an agricultural analytics device that supports sustainable practices among farmers in Rwanda. 

The Canadian jury who selected the winners included University of Alberta professor Eleni Stroulia, engineer and IBM consultant Enikő Rózsa, co-founder of AltaML Nicole Janssen, University of Montreal postdoctoral researcher Taoli Cheng and engineering program manager AI and Special Projects at TELUS Ivey Chiu. Jury members assessed nominees’ innovation, research, leadership and global impact, as their criteria for selecting the award winners.

News Summary
A visionary in AI and accessibility, Dr. Treviranus has won Leader of the Year in the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion category.
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Is AI increasing the disability hiring divide? 

Companies are increasingly using artificial intelligence (AI) to screen job candidates, but how might this trend create bias in the hiring process, particularly for applicants with disabilities?

Microsoft and Kessler Foundation recently announced that OCAD University’s Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC) has received a joint planning grant from both firms to investigate the issue of AI screening bias in a project titled, “Optimizing Diversity with Disability.”

Part of the funding was awarded by Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility, a philanthropic program aimed at harnessing the power of AI to amplify human capability for the more than one billion people around the world with disabilities. The program helps developers, NGO’s, academics, researchers and inventors to accelerate their work for people with disabilities, focusing on four key areas: the home, employment, education, and community.

The other grantor, Kessler Foundation, leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. The Foundation is a major non-profit organization in the field of disability, and a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve long-term outcomes -- including employment -- for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord.

Employers across Canada are currently missing out on the phenomenal range of abilities and skill sets candidates with disabilities have to offer. The one-year grant will support the IDRC’s research to identify how to improve the use of AI recruitment technology in order to make the hiring process more equitable, accurate and transparent.

“AI hiring apps that are frequently biased against employee diversification and applicants with disabilities are now deployed in more than 50 per cent of organizations. This leads to employee monocultures and increases the already high unemployment rate of individuals with disabilities who are ready to work,” says Dr. Jutta Treviranus, Director of the IDRC.

According to the Government of Canada, 59 per cent of Canadians with disabilities, aged 25 to 64, are employed compared to 80 per cent of Canadians without disabilities in the same age range. The COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened this disability divide.

In July 2019, the country's Accessible Canada Act came into effect, in a step towards a greater recognition of the importance of workplace disability inclusion.

The work of the IDRC continues this momentum and is part of a growing global community that proactively works to ensure that our increasingly digitally transformed world is designed inclusively. Through research, consulting, and training, the Centre identifies risks and catalyzes opportunities for equitable inclusion when new technical systems, such as AI-powered hiring systems, emerge.

News Summary
OCAD University has received funding to research the use of artificial intelligence in employee hiring.
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The Canada School of Public Service has announced its new Digital Fellows -- among them Dr. Jutta Treviranus, Professor, Faculty of Design, OCAD University and Director and Founder of the Inclusive Design Research Centre.

The Canada School of Public Service's Digital Fellowship aims to bring together a multi-disciplinary community of leaders to help develop and steer the Digital Academy's learning programs. This will help ensure the academy's work meets the government's needs, and showcases the Government of Canada's most forward-looking projects and organizations.

Digital Fellows and the academy’s learners will be at the forefront of the public service’s adaptation to continuous disruption; in how we understand citizens’ needs and meet their rising expectations for service and engagement.


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