Smoothtalker, a device that helps those with speech defects communicate better and an eye tracking device that empowers those with disabilities to communicate and interact with the world are among a host of assistive technologies on offer for the differently-abled.
Prominent companies such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Accenture etc. are showcasing various innovations developed to assist differently-abled people to overcome their day-to-day difficulties at the 5th edition of Techshare 2016, that began on March 3rd at New Delhi.
The two-day event inaugurated by Vinod Aggarwal, Secretary, Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Ministry for Social Justice, is being organised by Barrierbreak, a company that works in the area of accessibility and assistive technology.
“The disability conversation almost always revolves around the charitable part. Everyone should understand that the needs of those with disabilities will have to be catered to. They do not have the technology access,” Shilpi Kapoor, MD, Barrierbreak said.
According to conservative estimates, Kapoor said, there are around 70 million differently-abled people in India and the market for assistive technology is Rs 4,500 crore. “There are so many initiatives such as Make in India, Digital India etc. but what are we thinking for those who are differently abled?” Kapoor mentions. Organisers strongly feel that from the first edition of Techshare held in 2008, things have started looking up.
On the inaugural day, a specially designed news app for the differently-abled people, called Newz Hook, was launched.The app has a screen reader as well as a sign language facility. It seemed to be an instant hit with the participants at the event who queued up for a free demonstration.
Similarly, Optelec,a Dutch company came to the event with its Clear View Speech, a device that would help a person with low vision read or hear news. Tobii technology, a Swedish company displayed Eyetracker, a device that reads eye movement. There is the Smoothtalker that helps those who suffer from any form of speech defect. All these products are marketed by Barrierbreak in India.
Roli from Facebook explained why the social networking website has come forward to join the initiative.”Around 50,000 Facebook users listen to the site instead of reading it,” she said. “Facebook has a number of alternative commands for the differently-abled such as Ctrl+L for ‘like’. The full list can be obtained by pressing Ctrl+?,” she added.
“The government launching the Accessible India (Sugamya Bharat) campaign is a positive sign. It acknowledges that what we have been saying all this while is true and somebody has to address the problem. Companies such as Microsoft, Google, Accenture– they are all out to cater to the needs of the differently-abled people today. This itself is a success,” Kapoor said.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Rajender Singh Negi who has attended all the editions of Techshare so far. An employee at the National Institute for the Visually Handicapped (NIVH), Negi said, “Nothing changes overnight. The good thing is, the mindset is changing. The awareness level is on the rise. That itself is a giant leap”.