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CSR can push the markets for the disabled: IIT Delhi Prof

Oct 15, 2019

Bringing down the cost of assistive technology solutions is as crucial as introducing the solutions, said experts at Empower 2019.

Sonepat/New Delhi: Bridging the gap between the solution providers and solution seekers with the help of technology, IIT Delhi along with Microsoft organised Empower 2019, a three day discourse that aims to deliver practical solutions to the everyday challenges faced by different disabled communities.

With the focus of delivering usable products at affordable prices catering to various kinds of disabilities ranging from the visually challenged, the hearing impaired to the dyslexic, the platform endeavours to bring different stakeholders for converting the expectations of various users into reality.

With the products ranging from tactile books for the visually impaired, offline apps for children with various special needs, and wheelchairs catering to unexplored needs of the disabled users, the conference aims at building an ecosystem that is sustainable in meeting the needs of various kinds of disabilities at affordable costs.

Ankita Gulati, Founder and CEO, of TouchVision, one of the many startups that showcased their products at IIT Delhi’s Technopark in Sonepat, said that more than the possible scalability of the project it is the potential impact that guides researchers like her to constantly look for the needs and upgrade the products that could be helpful to users of all kinds including those with special needs.

“Assis Tech, an interdisciplinary group of faculty, research staff and students at IIT Delhi, provided us with the required ecosystem that coupled with my quest for technology related solutions has resulted into affordable products for the visually challenged,” she said.

Prof. M. Balakrishnan, Founder of Assis Tech and Professor, CSE Department, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi said that technology could help in bringing down the price of such products. “Using assistive technologies, we can help empower them to be a part of the societal progress. Through this conference, we aim to address the challenges faced by people with disabilities and bring together all researchers, industries, users and user organizations involved in the creation, production and dissemination of assistive technology solutions.”

Prof Balakrishnan asserted that while the disabled are the real drivers of Assis Tech, it is the market based approach that has the capacity to fuel the innovation ecosystem. “Disability also means consumers don't have the buying capacity. Impact investors are not just concerned about profits but reaching people. Funds available through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) can push the markets in favour of the disabled,” he said.

Dr Manohar Swaminathan, Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research (MSR) said an initiative like Empower by IIT Delhi had the capacity to lead the Global South. “We believe that the conference will provide a fertile ground for innovation by connecting such tools with designers of assistive technologies in confluence with people with disabilities who need such solutions,” he said.

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