News Release

How people with cerebral palsy can participate in voice recognition research

During National CP Awareness Month, a voice recognition project recruits U.S., Puerto Rican adults with cerebral palsy

Business Announcement

Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology

The Speech Accessibility Project, which aims to train voice recognition technologies to understand people with diverse speech patterns and disabilities, is recruiting U.S. and Puerto Rican adults with cerebral palsy.

March is National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month

TODAY, March 25 is National CP Awareness Day in the U.S.


Clarion Mendes, a clinical assistant professor of speech and hearing science and a speech language pathologist, believes the project has important implications for improving quality of life for those with cerebral palsy. Mendes is a member of the Speech Accessibility Project team.

“Including individuals with CP in the Speech Accessibility Project has been incredible. Our participants — those who are sharing their voices to improve science, health and quality of life — are making the project better every day. Their engagement, their stories and their recommendations for enhancing the Speech Accessibility Project have spoken volumes.

"As an aunt to a 7-year-old with CP who struggles to make himself understood, I am forever indebted to those have taken the time to join our team and participate! Thanks for making my nephew’s life better, and the lives of millions of others with CP!" Mendes said.

Mark Hasegawa-Johnson, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and the lead researcher on the Speech Accessibility Project, said:

“AI is about giving people superpowers. I’ve found that people with CP are a bit more willing than others, on average, to learn how to use an AI superpower, often because they have a lot of expertise or practical experience in hacking or adapting technology. Speech [recognition] would be a great way to access your AI superpowers, if it worked.

"The goal of the Speech Accessibility Project is to make speech recognition work, by providing curated and transcribed training data to companies and universities interested in AI."

Participant Spencer Hadbavny’s cerebral palsy affects his left side, and he lives with a minor speech impairment. He said he thinks the Speech Accessibility Project allows people with CP to play an active role in making voice recognition technology more user-friendly.

“This project allows many individuals with CP the opportunity to share their own experiences and struggles,” Hadbavny said. “Collecting data will help them seek out new communication tech and assist others to get their message across."


About the Speech Accessibility Project: 

Funded by Big Tech companies Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign aims to train voice recognition technologies to understand people with diverse speech patterns and disabilities. Researchers at Illinois' Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology are securely recording participants and safeguarding their private information. So far, the project has shared more than 100,000 speech samples with the Big Tech companies, and the data will eventually be available to non-profits and companies who agree to safeguard participants’ privacy.

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