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Chatbot Mera Mitra aims to be the personal companion for all things to do with disability in India

Well known social entrepreneur and disability rights activist Ankit Rajiv Jindal along with brother Pratik has developed a chatbot on disability rights in India. It's available on devices with Google Assistant and Facebook Messenger.

Want to know more about accessibility standards for government buildings? Or perhaps the punishment for committing a crime against a person with disability? You can turn to Mera Mitra, a chatbot powered by artificial intelligence which has all the information you need about disability rights in India.

What's a chatbot, some of you may be asking for starters. Well, it's a computer program or an artificial intelligence that conducts a conversation via auditory or textual methods and are designed such that they simulate two people chatting.

The team behind Mera Mitra are social entrepreneur and well-known disability rights activist Ankit Rajiv Jindal and brother Pratik. Having lost their vision at a young age, the Jindal brothers are committed to enlightening the disabled community about their rights.

Mera Mitra aims to be India's personal companion for everything on disability, particularly the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016.

As a person with disability myself and having worked in the disability sector for so long, we realised that information is not so readily available. We found three major challenges with information. One, it is obsolete so the information is often outdated. Many websites, even government ones are talking about the 1995 Disabilities Act and not the RPWD Act 2016 which is a game changing law which has so many new provisions. Also, the information is fragmented so you have to go to multiple places to get access which is cumbersome. - Ankit Rajiv Jindal, Co-Creator, Mera Mitra

Having been at the receiving end of this confusion, the brothers are determined to make sure that the disabled community has access to the correct imformation when they need it. This, they believe is key to empowerment.

How to use Mera Mitra

A user has to do is open Google Assistant on the smartphone and say Talk to Mera Mitra before asking questions. You can get details like financial schemes for disabled people, hospitals to go to for disability certificates, to name a few. Mera Mitra also plays in the audio format.

"We wanted to make something simple, something intuitive, something a simple as talking to a friend, says Ankit who like his brother has considerable experience working in the IT industry. "Chatbots are seen as the websites of the future so we did some research on how to use it.

The idea is also to create a platform for people in small towns who may not always go to Google as the first source of information. They aim for the chatbot to be become the first touchpoint for the disabled community in India.

Megha Patangi, an accessibility professional in a multinational IT services organisation in Bengaluru says she finds Mera Mitra to be a good source of knowledge. "After finishing my studied in 2009, I found it hard to get the right direction and support as a person with disability. Now, I know my rights and laws as a disabled person thanks to Mera Mitra. Megha calls it an "all round knowledge centre for people with and withot disabilities.

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