Leveraging Technology for Inclusion at Innovate Now

image credit: atinnovatenow.com

“African persons with disabilities, innovators, and entrepreneurs can be at the center of leading a revolution-making assistive technology accessible and affordable to everyone that needs it in Africa.”

Bernard Chiira

Bernard Chiira the Director at Innovate Now – at Global Disability Innovation Hub, a newly launched Innovation ecosystem. Also the Chairperson of ASSEK, the National Association for Startup and SME Enablers of Kenya as well as serving as an advisor and mentor in accelerators and Incubators in Kenya. Has an ambitious goal, where he intends to reach 9 million people directly with life-changing Assistive Technology through AT2030. 

More people with disabilities are being included in general education and work settings now more than ever before because of people like Bernard. This has increased the demand for assistive technology application to accommodate their special needs in inclusive settings. At Inclusive Africa, we are always looking for inspiring stories like this to showcase in our quest for a more inclusive Africa.

Without assistive technology, people are often excluded, isolated, and locked into poverty, thereby increasing the impact of disease and disability on a person, their family, and society. Today, only 1 in 10 people in need have access to assistive technology due to high costs and a lack of awareness, availability, trained personnel, policy, and financing.

Making the world accessible for all cannot happen without innovation. With statistics showing that close to 1 billion people globally do not have access to Assistive Technology only 10% of 1 billion disabled people have access, the gap is likely to double by 2050, this shows innovation is imperative.

This technology has been used by individuals with disabilities in order to perform functions that might otherwise be difficult or impossible such as difficulty speaking, typing, writing, remembering, pointing, seeing, hearing, learning, walking, and many other things. All these requiring a full range of products, including new and developing technology. 

Different disabilities require different assistive technologies and this is why Bernard is looking at helping various ventures develop assistive technologies that are not only groundbreaking but homemade and customized with the local knowledge, lowering costs for persons with disabilities, most of whom are already underprivileged. Many of the start-ups in the program are in fact people with disabilities innovating for themselves and those around them. 

Bernard Chiira the Director at Innovate Now

Conversations on the plight of persons with disabilities have been ongoing. Although, the lack of access to assistive technologies by those who need them has resulted in communication barriers, which ought to be broken.

 There are entrepreneurs in this Assistive Technology space. However, the majority of the businesses fail not because they are bad ideas, but because they lack funding since investors are unwilling to engage in businesses that have undefined costs and undetermined demand noted Bernard. This is what his accelerator program is looking to change by increasing the demand for these technologies and ultimately help the businesses grow. Innovate Now has been doing three cohorts in Kenya that have been supporting ventures that are leveraging this disruptive technology to improve the functioning, independence, and wellbeing of persons with disabilities in Africa.

Photo Credits mwakilishi.com: Roy Allela Invented the Smart Gloves that Change Sign Language Movements into Audio Speech

The independence and well-being of persons with disabilities is critical. Assistive technologies are central to ensuring that persons with disabilities can continue to thrive. The accelerator program seeks to close the gap that exists between persons with disabilities and access to assistive technologies.

Assistive technology Accelerator is an inspiration for the rest of Africa and we have a lot of work to when it comes to creating inclusiveness for people with disabilities. We see a pattern of people with disabilities not being included when solutions are being designed. Adaptions are only made later in order to accommodate them once systems are done. Instead, we should be including everyone in creating solutions. We, at Inclusive Africa, are committed to working to help create inclusivity for people with disabilities by bringing about such bias to light and encourage other organizations to also start focusing on this important group because it is time to have an Africa that is inclusive for everyone.