Today, it is possible to have devices which can significantly improve the quality of life for Persons with Disabilities (PwD) and elderly people. However, the challenge will be to make these devices affordable and ensure that everyone who needs it, is able to access it and use it.

Over one billion people, children, and adults with disabilities across the world require assistive technology as an integral part of their daily lives. The number in India constitutes a significant part of this, though the 2011 Census data lists only 26.8 million people with disabilities.

Despite the global need and recognized benefits of assistive products, access to assistive products remains limited. Addressing this unmet need is essential to improve an individual’s functioning and independence, thereby promoting their well-being.
India is a large market, and the volume of production can bridge this gap given R&D and commercialization happens in India. IITM Research Park (IITMRP) as a part of its 10X program is therefore pursuing an ambitious vision to make India a global leader in Assistive Technology to enabling inclusion for PwDs and empower them to live healthy, productive, independent, and dignified lives.
Towards this, IITMRP is bringing startups, industry, academia, and students together across the AT ecosystem to make affordable, accessible, and quality indigenous AT products. The program also encourages young engineers and aspiring entrepreneurs to learn from anywhere in the world and yet build a unique AT development ecosystem in India.

IITMRP’s AT program largely focuses on:
• Building an ecosystem of AT product developers
• Skill building of young entrepreneurs & college students
• Development, production, and scalable growth of the AT start-up ecosystem
• Raising awareness of existing & emerging solutions and service providers

The objective will be to not only develop Assistive Technology products, but also strive to get them to each person who needs it. To further mobilize this process, IITMRP will work on policies and facilitate donors who would like to support the vision and get the devices to people who cannot afford it.

EMPOWER Conference: An initiative to connect and develop the AT ecosystem

In line with the AT vision of 10X, this year IITMRP is hosting India’s Foremost Conference on Creating Assistive Technology Solutions – EMPOWER 2022. The conference focuses on bringing together stakeholders working towards enabling and empowering Assistive Technology in India. This will support in seeding ideas for research, innovation, and commercialization of homegrown AT solutions.

EMPOWER will comprise of the following:
• 20+ Talks by industry experts in Assistive Technology.
• Technical paper & poster presentations on AT solutions
(Access to community, activities of daily living, communication, mobility & entertainment)
• 100+ product exhibitions & presentations by AT startups & innovators
• Technical workshops for hands-on experience
• Student Design Challenge on AT. The challenge has commenced with 80+ student teams
• India’s first Assistive Technology awards by the AssisTech Foundation (ATF).

EMPOWER will pave the way towards addressing the key factors that ensure: Availability, Affordability, and Consumer Awareness. This will encourage more products and solutions being developed and replicated for the Indian context. This will also bring forward existing and emerging designers and developers with their designs for an interactive know-how.
The conference will also facilitate networking exchanges to open up collaborative opportunities in identifying, exchanging, and understanding the issues pertaining to sustainable development goals.

Tapping into the momentum gained at the EMPOWER conference, IITMRP strives to create a community of AT enthusiasts and AT startups.

Author: PCQuest
October 10th, 2022
Read more at: