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Bengaluru meet brings together key stakeholders working on indigenous assistive tech solutions

From an interactive early learning tool for visually impaired children to a smartwatch for deaf people, the assistive solutions showcase organized by EnAble India and Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bangalore highlighted indigenous solutions that can help address the barriers faced by disabled people in India when it comes to inclusion.

Worldwide there are many assistive technologies for visual, speech and hearing impairments, autism and cerebral palsy, to name a few, but they are better suited for Western needs or are unaffordable. Given this, there is an urgent need for locally made devices.

The event offered an opportunity for various stakeholders working in the field of assistive technology from entrepreneurs to funders to NGOs working in the field of inclusion, to name a few.

Close to 190 people came for the event and there were 30-35 start-ups present. Anyone connected with assistive technology was there. The idea was also to talk about creating a market for such technology and how start-ups could reach this market.- George Sebastian, Consultant, EnAble India

Among the entrepreneurs present was Vivek Sarda of NeoMotion whose cerebral palsy wheelchair has won multiple awards. Attending a focused group event like this one offered a rare opportunity to connect with all the players in the assistive tech space, said Sarda. "The event was well organised taking care of the requirements of differently abled people. Overall we got to connect with a lot of people and as an entrepreneur in this space, I am glad to see an ecosystem developing which would support in developing good products for people with disabilities".

With the conversation around disability changing thanks to greater sensitization and the RPWD Act, companies are more open to hiring people with disabilities. However, there is a need to develop affordable and creative technologies specific to disability types that can help drive greater inclusion at the workplace. The market for this is huge and innovators need to tap this.

From that perspective, bringing various stakeholders in this space of assistive technology under the same roof is a good idea, believes Shantal Somaiyyaji, whose organization Vividha Trust provides services and resources to persons with disability.

"This kind of networking really helps because you have everyone under the same umbrella and you are able to see so many solutions. We work with visually impaired children in the education sector and we did not know how to reach out to others saying we had these products. We made a lot of connections, including with prospective funders, which was a pain point".

For Subashree Krishnan, who is one of the founders of Nimaya Robotics along with Dr Ramya S Moorthy, this was a chance to create awareness about the products the company is working on.

A social robotics venture, Nimaya aims to help children with disabilities improve their life skills and enable them to live independently.

"I met at least 10 organizations/individuals for whom Nimaya's work was directly relevant. Our vision is to change the lives of millions with special needs. We want to help them become self-reliant by helping them learn psychomotor and cognitive skills. Our products are relevant in both early intervention and pre-vocational training".

Clearly there are solutions specific to Indian needs and situations, what is needed is greater collaboration and brainstorming so they can be brought into the system in an appropriate, relevant way. Something that events like these will help foster.

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