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#TechThursdays - EMx turns the spotlight on early intervention & inclusive education in the 3rd edition

Launched in 2015, Enable Makeathon has fostered some incredible breakthrough innovations in assistive technologies. The third edition, EMx is looking at technologies that can help address critical gaps in early intervention & inclusive education.

From access to early diagnosis to support/intervention to accessible reading materials, the gaps faced by children with disabilities in India when it comes to education are many and varied. They become even wider for children from economically disadvantaged families.

A realisation that led the team behind Enable Makeathon to focus on early intervention & inclusive education in its third edition, EMx.

The first edition focused building hardware solutions for physical disabilities while the second edition focussed on hardware, software/application & Process based solutions was on visual and hearing disabilities in addition to physical disabilities. This time too, extensive consultations were held with domain experts from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIM-B) to disability rights organizations like Association of People with Disabilities (APD) and Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled, to mention a few.

Going ahead, we want to develop as many solutions as we can for children with developmental disorders. The goal is to develop a suite of products, right from when the child's journey starts, i.e. intervention in the early stages of life at the home, solutions required on his or her way to school, accessible education in the school, the therapies that are available and the products that can help them further on in life. - Manas Tiwari, Partner, Inkludo Consulting and Advisory.

There are a lot of products developed in the West, but as Manas points, these are first world solutions. "If we want products that the Indian population can use, we have to make them in India because products coming from the West cannot be used here even after they are improvised to the Indian context. We need to design in India, for India.

While middle- and high-income families are relatively better off, it's children from low income households that are worst hit. Poorer parents depend on the school administration when it comes to their children's development. Few schools are equipped to shoulder this responsibility.

The result, as EMx Co-founder Tarun Sarwal points out is that a large number of children with disabilities are completely excluded. "There are certain communities like the deaf communities where 80% of people are coming out without even basic knowledge of writing or reading.

Given the weaknesses in the system, there is an urgent need to develop local solutions emphasises V S Basavraju, State Commissioner for Disabilities, Karnataka, and strong supporter of the EMx process. "Look around and we see a lot of children with learning disabilities that the system is ignoring. They are being put through a huge ordeal and we need to look at how to solve the problem by developing indigenous products and techniques.

What sets the EMx apart is that the technologies are developed in close partnership with the disabled community which gives the innovators a detailed, in depth insight into their needs.

"This will help develop products that are suitable in the gap areas such that the children and parents are empowered and less dependent, says V Rajasekharan, Co-founder, vshesh, the impact enterprise that is an EMx partner. "Right now, most of the services offered by NGOs and the government involve various stakeholders coming together which leaves the person dependent on someone else.

Nearly 700 start-ups are likely to apply for the third edition and the founders hope to see products that will offer innovative and unique solutions. "We are looking developing products that can satisfy people 18 years ahead, so we are talking about a whole generation of kids who by 2030 should be in a position to have proper support, says Tarun, Managing Partner, Inkludo Consulting & Advisory.

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