By Pulkit Aggarwal & Rishabh Nayyar
Disabled Lives Matter should have long back become a rallying cry in a world indifferent to their needs. The pandemic has brought in its wake unprecedented challenges in the lives of People with Disabilities (PwD). Large numbers of children with disabilities stay out of school, disabled adults are likely to be unemployed, and families with disabled members tend to be economically weaker because of high out-of-pocket expenditure to maintain a sustainable lifestyle.
To come out of this vicious cycle of poverty and illiteracy, an aspiring disabled population needs efficient assistive technology products. However, most such products are either out of the reach of PwDs or suffer from poor quality.
Historically, assistive technology solutions have been promoted and executed by the government and philanthropic institutions like foundations, charities, and non-governmental organizations. One of the organizations empowered by the government to distribute assistive technology products is the Artificial Limbs Manufacturing Corporation of India (ALIMCO). Camps, organized at the behest of ministry, local representatives, or district authorities, are the only way to access these products. Even giants like ALIMCO are hugely dependant on government grant-in-aid programs as more than 60% of the sales happen due to the support from various government schemes and grants from CSRs.
Philanthropy reached those underserved sections, which had traditionally been deprived of effective disability solutions. But India is now seeing a spike in entrepreneurial activity in the assistive technology sector, driving innovation and efficiency. Solutions like Braille computers, intelligent canes, bionic arms, and mechanized wheelchairs have been taken up by startups. Over 200-plus startups in India alone are working on high-quality, innovative solutions across multiple disability areas to create access to education, livelihoods, and employment for over 200 million people.