Google Pursues Transformative Tech for the Disabled

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Google pursues transformative tech for the disabled as it believes in the power of technology to change lives, and launches Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities. The project is to support the disabled who consider obstacles as opportunities. Google puts $20 million in its charitable arm, grants behind nonprofits with technologies to increase independence among disabled people.

For a billion of people, the world is not fully accessible. The Mountain View, California firm is eyeing to address the needs of people with disabilities all over the world, and putting a lot of resources.

Some blind people adopted technological solutions in the absence of their vision. To read, they use screen-readers and magnification software. A living example is Laura Palmaro, one of the Internet search company’s program managers, who is passionate in working to have Chrome teams make the products more accessible. She testifies technology transformed her life, and says it can break boundaries and empower people with disabilities, independence to achieve their dreams.

Google kicks off its pursuit of transformative tech for the disabled by supporting two organizations – the Enable community and the World Wide Hearing. These use technology to reduce big time, the cost and access to tools that could transform the lives of millions of people, such as prosthetic limbs and auditory therapy.

Enable pairs those who seek prosthetics with volunteers who use 3D printers for designing, printing, collecting and fitting them, free of charge. This will lessen the costs, as well as make distribution faster. With a $600,000 grant support, the Enable Community’s efforts will advance the design and delivery of upper-limb prosthetics printed from open source 3D printers.

For developing countries and communities with low income, diagnosing auditory problems can be difficult. Equipment are costly and bulky, making them unrealistic. With Google’s grant of $500,000, World Wide Hearing will try to come up with an extremely inexpensive tool kit to detect hearing loss, by cultivating, prototyping and testing with a smartphone technology that is already ubiquitous, and affordable in the developing world.

The Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities will likewise seek out nonprofits and aid them in finding solutions for the disabled community. The search giant will pick the best of the ideas and help out scaling them by investing in the vision, rallying its people and mobilizing resources to support the missions.

Another team is monitoring how accessible the tools are, with engineering personnel trained to integrate the accessibility principles into the services and products. This way, the Android platform owner can improve its tools and products, and come up with new ones. For instance, Liftware is a utensil made to aid those with hand tremors eat easily, while self-driving cars could realize mobility for everyone.

In seeking to “build awareness and identify solutions for disabled people,” the Google Impact: Disabilities solicits two groups of people: one, the disabled and their families; and two, the inventors and innovators. The public is encouraged to submit “what if” questions – suggested solutions for accessibility issues, to which inventors and startups will respond.

Individuals, government organizations and entities, such as public schools, universities and for-profit organizations are not eligible to submit ideas, only public and nonprofit charities. All ideas should be in English and Google encourages the ideas and will accept them until September 30.

Autism self-advocate Temple Grandin and special rapporteur of the United Nation on the rights of disabled persons Catalina Devandas Aguilar are two of the advisers of the Internet titan’s new project. Director Jacquelline Fuller, said in a blog post that disabled people historically relied on technologies which were usually expensive, bulky and limited to help them with certain tasks. She wrote that as Google is pursuing transformative tech for the disabled, it is starting to change now, and together, the creation of a better world becomes faster.

By Judith Aparri

Google Official Blog: Pursuing transformative technology with the Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities
Engadget: Google to create ‘universal access for people with disabilities’
Disability Scoop: Google Putting Up Millions For Disability Initiative
Google Impact Challenge | Disabilities: Open Call

Photo courtesy of Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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