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Startups are answering the accessibility question

There are several statistics that speak of the severity of disabilities around the world. Rather than looking at the total percentage of the world population that is disabled, when one looks at the numbers that show the impact of the same, it paints a more revealing picture. For instance, almost 30% of children in the age group of 5-19 years have never attended an educational institution according to the 2011 Census. Among the disabled, a large portion (33%. Source: Disabled persons in India 2016 report from Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation) is formed by people in the age group of 10-29 years old – which goes to show that disability is not something that is just to be associated with old age. It affects the learners, the bread earners the most – the people who are depended upon the most by an average Indian family. The same 2011 Census shows that only 1/3rd of the disabled population is employed.

Additionally, no statistic is required to understand that it is significantly harder for a disabled person to work at an average workplace, provided they can even get the job first. There is an urgent need to bridge the gap in India, where as much as three crore citizens could be specially-abled, according to the same census, while disability rights activists and academicians working on disability issues say that these numbers are a very small percentage of the actual numbers. Some startups have taken up the responsibility to bring about the much-needed change, and they’re achieving some amazing results.

Rise Legs

One of the biggest hindrances when it comes to most cost-effective prosthetics for the disabled is the weight, as well as the flexibility. On the other hand, to avail the lighter, more flexible alternatives, often the people in need have to pay a huge price. Bangalore-based startup Rise Legs took an approach that found the middle ground by using cane as a material.

Cane is typically used to build household furniture and is flexible as compared to many other types of wooden materials. During a vacation in India, founder Arun Cherian had the idea to use it for prosthetics. He got the desired mould made by local artisans and tested at IISc, Bengaluru. One thing led to another and more than a year later, Rise Legs is providing cheaper, lighter prosthetics that are not only far more affordable than imported alternatives, but also useful enough to actually help people regain natural capabilities much sooner.

Some of the options from Rise Legs

They can also build the legs to be customised to a person’s requirements. For instance, a person might be interested in sports which would require an agile design. On the other hand, they also offer visual customisation, giving the disabled an option to keep a naked cast, one matched to skin tone, or one covered with artwork. According to Cherian, the success of the company has resulted in enquiries from several foreign nations as well.

Kickstart Cabs

Getting around the city in a cab or a taxi might sound like quite a menial task to you, but it is not the same for the disabled. Cars are not typically built with them in mind, but that does not mean that they don’t need to get around. Bangalore-based Kickstart Cabs is designed as a disabled-friendly cab service that has quite a few useful features to help the disabled in getting around the city.

An accessible cab service by Kickstart Cabs

First of all, they have a seat that rotates to protrude out of the car, so that a person with a walking disorder can still enter and exit the cab normally. A particular type of cab has an access ramp and locks to help people in wheelchairs come into the vehicle. In some models, the chair can also be unlocked to function as a wheelchair itself. Even on the backend, thoughtful features, like texting deaf users instead of calling them, make you sit up and take notice

The ride tariffs are pretty reasonable, being between Rs. 30 to 40 per kilometre. They offer their services for package trips, office drops, airport drops as well as outstation trips. Just check out their demo and see for yourself how simple yet amazing this is.

Enable Travel by Cox and Kings
Technically, this is not a startup but Enable Travel is solving a big problem by providing travel solutions for the disabled. Tour and travel packages on the platform have been designed by the disabled for the disabled, with impairments in vision, hearing, mobility and speech being taken into account. Some of the facilities they provide involve wheelchair accessible vans and specially trained staff and caregivers.

Oswald Labs

Started off as Oswald Foundation back in 2016 by then 18-year-old Anand Chowdhary and 15-year-old Nishant Gadihoke, Oswald Labs today has become one of the leading companies when it comes to accessibility technology. Over the last couple of years, they’ve built some amazing software solutions that have one aim – to make life easier for the disabled.

Agastya is a solution to be used by web developers to easily incorporate accessibility features into the websites they build. Just adding one line of code in Javascript, you get a customisable accessibility widget that will also show you usage statistics and more. Apart from night mode, blue light filter and Dyslexia-friendly mode, Oswald Labs is also planning to make Agastya smarter by adding the ability to add automatic image tags on websites.

Shravan OS

Valmiki is similar to Agastya, as in it offers all the same features, but just as a browser extension. Once installed, the disabled person gets a lot of customisation to make it perfect for their use case.

But perhaps the best of their projects is the upcoming Shravan OS. A smartphone OS that has been designed end-to-end with accessibility in mind, the OS comes with a patent pending speech and vibration interface that makes it suitable for just about anybody – and any smartphone.

Inclov

Despite everything, a big issue with disability in India is the social stigma associated with it. Disabled people are considered inferior by a segment of society, and that makes it difficult for them to find education, jobs and even love. Solving one part of that problem is what started off Inclov.

The Inclov app

It is a one of kind platform to find love, one which takes into account disabilities and health disorders and helps people find partners who can take care of their needs. Each person signing up on the platform can specify details like the level of independence, cure availability and more. The app itself is designed with accessibility in mind through its screen reader and talkback features aimed at people with visual impairments. Inclov has also organised events dubbed Social Spaces, where people, disabled or non-disabled, can come together to socialise in an environment that keeps accessibility in mind. You can check out Inclov here.

Arnab Mukherjee

Arnab Mukherjee

A former tech-support desk jockey, you can find this individual delving deep into all things tech, fiction and food. Calling his sense of humour merely terrible would be a much better joke than what he usually makes.