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Two UC3M projects awarded with a grant for accessible technologies from Indra and the Universia Foundation


Researchers at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) have developed two new research projects in Accessible Technologies which have led to a solution aimed at making reading easier for people with intellectual disabilities and an application capable of predicting crises in people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), thanks to the support of Indra, one of the world’s leading technology and consultancy companies, and the Universia Foundation, which is supported by Banco Santander in the development of its activities.

Dos proyectos de la UC3M, ganadores de una ayuda a tecnologías accesibles de Indra y Fundación Universia

Both projects, called Easier and Petra, were winners of the 3rd Call for grants for research projects in Accessible Technologies, hosted annually by Indra and the Universia Foundation. Their viability and usefulness in a real environment were two of the aspects that were considered when awarding them the grants, in an edition which received more than one hundred projects from research groups from public and private Spanish universities.

A system for the lexical simplification of Spanish texts

The EASIER project, of the Human Language and Accessibility Technologies Group (HULAT) in the UC3M’s Computer Science and Engineering Department, has developed a system that helps people, primarily those with intellectual disabilities, to better understand texts. The system provides a lexical simplification of Spanish texts, offering different aids for understanding. It also detects complex words in the text and helps the user to improve their reading and comprehension of the text by using simple synonyms, a definition, or a pictogram for every complex word that is detected. 

The EASIER web platform can be accessed from any digital device and has extensions for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox browsers. The tool is accessible within the regulatory framework of the (WCAG) 2.1 Standard and it is easy and intuitive to use, following cognitive accessibility criteria.

Innovative Natural Language Processing (NLP) and machine learning methods, as well as Easy Read and Plain Language resources, have been used to develop and assess this solution. In addition to this, people with intellectual disabilities have participated in its implementation by evaluating the cognitive accessibility of the interface and the suitability of the system’s functionality. “Without the participation of people in the design and development processes of products and service, there’s no real social impact,” notes Lourdes Moreno, researcher from the UC3M’s HULAT group and project leader. 

An app to detect crises in autistic people

On its part, the PETRA project, developed by a research team from the UC3M’s Signal Theory and Communications Department, seeks to improve the communication of people who have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). These people interact with others in a different way than most and have certain communication issues (verbal and non-verbal), as well as limitations when it comes to understanding the emotions and intentions of others.

In order to improve their relationships in a social environment, the PETRA project has developed a free mobile application, called cuidaTEA, that is capable of characterising the behaviour of these people, finding personalised patterns, and detecting changes that allow crisis episodes associated with, for example, anxiety, sleep or behaviour disorders to be predicted. In order to do this, the cuidaTEA mobile application uses different sources of information on mobile devices (steps, app usage or usage time) which are processed by artificial intelligence algorithms. “In this way, we are trying to improve these patients’ communication skills via a system that, automatically and in real time, generates a direct alert to their caregivers’ mobile phones, so that they know how they are”, explains Pablo Martínez Olmos, professor at the University’s Signal Theory and Communications Department and lead scientist on the project. 

The application is already available on iOS and Android and, currently, is in the experimental phase of clinical trials, in collaboration with the Fundación Jiménez Díaz University Hospital Health Research Institute. 

Call for Indra-Universia Foundation grants

The Call for grants for Research projects in Indra Technologies, in collaboration with the Universia Foundation, has been consolidated over five editions as the first call of its kind in Spain. Indra has contributed to the development of more than 60 projects within the framework of its Accessible Technologies, an initiative launched more than 15 years ago as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility, that aims to reduce the digital divide and put innovation at the service of people with disabilities.

About Indra

Indra is one of the leading global technology and consulting companies and the technological partner for core business operations of its customers worldwide. It is a world-leader in providing its own solutions in specific segments in Transport and Defence markets, and the leading firm in digital transformation consultancy and Information Technologies in Spain and Latin America through its affiliate Minsait. Its business model is based on a comprehensive offer of its own products, with a high-value, and with a high innovation component. At the end of the 2020 financial year, Indra achieved revenue of €3,043 million, almost 48,000 employees, a local presence in 46 countries and business operations in over 140 countries.  

About the Universia Foundation

The Universia Foundation, powered by Universia, sponsored by Banco Santander through Santander Universities, is a private, non-profit organisation that has focused its work on educational and work-related guidance, diversity and fairness, the digital transformation of universities, entrepreneurship, and impact measurement of the university ecosystem according to international standards (SDGs) for more than 10 years. It has been an Employment Agency, in collaboration with the Spanish Public Employment Service, for the implementation of employment mediation activities since 2012. On an international level, it is a Global Compact signatory, committed to adhering to the United Nations Global Compact Principles.

About the UC3M

The UC3M is a Spanish public university which excels in teaching, research and innovation. It ranks among the top 35 universities in the world in the QS Top 50 Under 50 ranking and appears in the Times Higher Education (THE) 150 Under 50 ranking. It has more than 870 agreements with universities from 56 countries, among which are some of the best in the world, according to the Shanghai Rankings. 20% of its students are international students. The UC3M is a partner of the Young Universities for the Future of Europe (YUFE) alliance, one of the networks selected by the EU in its European Universities Initiative. The UC3M has numerous accreditations and quality distinctions, such as the EUR-ACE label in the field of Engineering and an AACSB accreditation in Business and Finance programmes, among others.