[Guest Post]: Access for AllShital Shah
Access For All
Sachin Malhan has been an entrepreneur his entire life, or at least he has felt like one. In 2003, knowing that corporate law was not his cup of tea, he started his first venture, and then his second, and then his third. But, his latest venture is the one that brings us the greatest excitement!
In late 2008, Sachin co-founded Inclusive Planet (IP), an enterprise that creates innovative web and mobile based services designed for, and I emphasize the for, the differently-abled*. Never one to look at the small picture, Sachin dreams of IP becoming the definitive global online community and marketplace specifically designed for the differently-abled. His dreams stretch far beyond the boundaries of the Indian subcontinent, Sachin wants IP to be GLOBAL!
Just take a second to imagine being differently-abled in India. Imagine being blind. Imagine being in a wheelchair. Imagine crossing a Mumbai street either blind or in a wheelchair – motorbikes rushing at you, a stray cow standing in the median, a puddle disguising a huge pothole, a bus charging through that puddle. Now you’ve got the picture of what Sachin and his IP co-founders were up against when they decided to launch this venture.
Worldwide, the differently-abled lack access – access to learning and entertainment, access to places, access to people. Sachin and IP are setting out to change this.
Access to Learning and Entertainment
Their first foray into the space is Readable, a user-generated library of books accessible to the visually-impaired. The blind are automatically limited by what books are available in brail. For the blind, the internet has been a revolution, and now, it has subsequently become an addiction. Everything on the internet, or at least almost everything, is text to speech convertible. For this reason, the internet has quickly become the blind’s best friend. Readable harnesses this “addiction” for a positive good – by making accessible books and materials relevant to leisure as well as study.
Access to Places
Close on the heels of Readable are offerings that include Visitable, Matchable, and Thisability. Visitable is a community-driven (crowd-sourced) service that will index and rate urban locations and routes according to the level of their “accessibility,” a Burrp or Yelp for accessibility, if you may. If you want to go to a restaurant, you can check if the restaurant is accessible. If you want to go to the movies, the same holds true. The hope is that the differently-abled will WANT to participate in Visitable, they will WANT to build something like Visitable for their own community.
Access to People
We, as non differently-abled individuals, often take for granted that we have friends, go out, get married, etc. Often, this doesn’t happen in the case of the differently-abled. They are often marginalized and forced to stay at home, which results in tremendous loneliness. In fact, the differently-abled are often referred to as “the invisible minority.” Matchable – a social network designed to connect the differently-abled – and Thisability – an assessment, training, and job platform for the differently-abled – seek to alter these social stereotypes and grant the differently-abled access to the most important resource of all – people.
Since all services can be accessed through one Inclusive Planet profile and all members are part of one social network/community united across applications, Inclusive Planet lives up to its name. It is not a random network. It is actually one community.
Imagine this, a 500,000 social community of differently-abled individuals. They can campaign for all kinds of things. If 1,000 people say a mall or restaurant is inaccessible and send a petition to the management, maybe change will occur. We are certainly rooting for Sachin and his Inclusive Planet team to revolutionize both access for the differently-abled and the way they are treated by society!
You can follow Sachin on Twitter at @inclusiveplanet.
* According to the UN, 10% of the world is disabled, 5.5% is hearing and visually impaired.
Editor’s Note: Guest blogger Adrienne Villani is an Associate at Intellecap, where she is involved in the conceptualization and creation of content for Beyond Profit, Intellecap’s publication on social enterprise and social entrepreneurship, both in print and online. Trained as a demographer, she received her M.Sc. in Population and Development from the London School of Economics and Political Science, where she concentrated on the demographic and socio-economic effects of son preference on the north Indian marriage market.