To promote universal design and accessibility, the 12th NCPED — Mphasis Universal Design Awards — commemorated on UNESCO’s International Day for Universal Access to Information, announced the 2021 winners of the awards to recognise select companies and individuals for their outstanding contribution and innovation in promoting accessibility and creating a disabled-friendly India.
The awards, initiated in 2010 by the National Centre for Employment of the Disabled People (NCPEDP) with the support of its long-standing partner Mphasis, are one of the most sought-after awards recognizing excellence for disability-friendly innovations and practices. A total of 12 awardees instituted in four categories have been announced across certain categories including a Special Jury Award.
Alongside the Awards ceremony, the event held a fireside chat on the healthcare issues of persons with disabilities between the Guest of Honour Dr Devi Prasad Shetty, Chairman and Executive Director, Narayana Health.
While talking about the issues faced by people with disabilities in terms of accessibility, Dr Shetty said that in India, making a building disabled-friendly is an afterthought. He added that as the country sees more and more senior citizens travelling in wheelchairs, it is important to recognise the issues that they face while travelling.
He iterated that the healthcare industry is poised to support persons with disabilities with an increase in employment opportunities for them such as support staff who can work from home. “Today working from home is a blessing in disguise for people with disabilities and the healthcare industry is poised to give them that opportunity.” He also highlighted the need for collective efforts and strength to bring universal health coverage to people with disabilities.
Here is a list of inclusive innovations and awardees felicitated for the year 2021.
Ankit Rajiv Jindal – Signer AI, a digital sign language translator
A multi-faceted personality, Jindal is committed to the empowerment of persons with disabilities and propagated accessibility and inclusion. He invented Signer AI, a digital sign language translator that converts speech/text input into Indian Sign Language in real time, and also Mera Mitra, a website and a Google Assistant-based chatbot designed to be a one-stop shop for all information on accessibility and disability inclusion. He has also established the NGO Friends for Inclusion for cross-disability.
Prateek Khandelwal – RampMyCity
After becoming a paraplegic in 2014 due to an accident, Khandelwal became a wheelchair user. After realising the serious issue of inaccessibility in India, he decided to become part of the solution himself. Through his start-up, RampMyCity, Khandelwal is providing simple accessibility solutions to places of public usage enabling more visibility and equal participation of the disabled population.
Payal Kapoor – Rasoi ke Rahasya
As a trained hotel management professional, cooking has always been a passion for Payal. However, owing to an illness at the age of 22, Kapoor lost her eyesight, partial hearing, and became tactile-challenged. She ventured back to the kitchen, and used her training and native genius to devise simple techniques to plan and organise the kitchen space and work safely. Since April 2020, Kapoor has been regularly publishing audio tutorials on her Youtube channel, Rasoi ke Rahasya.
Paul Gerard D Souza, Touchétech Labs Braille Cell Modules
His company, Touchétech Labs, has been providing Braille Cell Modules to students, researchers and even companies like Thinkerbell Labs. He also developed a tactile drawing tool caller Roulette that enabled the Visually Impaired to draw lines on commonly available photocopying grade paper.
Madhav Ajay Lavakare, TranscribeGlass
In 2017, When Lavakare was in Class 11, his friend, who was hard of hearing, dropped out of school because day-to-day communication with other students was becoming an insurmountable problem. Lavakare tried to understand his problem better and began looking for solutions that could help him. He learned that most deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) individuals use a combination of assistive technology solutions for better communication but they are often unaffordable, inconvenient or inaccessible.
After an intensive five-year research, he came up with TranscribeGlass, an assistive technology device for the deaf, hard of hearing and elderly, fills the void with an affordable, comfortable, accessible, convenient real-time heads-up captioning solution, especially in developing countries.
Dr Hema Parikh, Vadodara, Ummeed Cerebral Palsy Centre
Dr Parikh has contributed to the development of Ummeed Cerebral Palsy Centre that was launched in 2016. While treating pediatric patients, she came across a girl Kinjal, who had Cerebral Palsy (CP). It was during Kinjal’s treatment that the idea of Ummeed Cerebral Palsy Centre came to her mind. The Centre caters to children with CP, autism, intellectual disability, Down syndrome, behavioural disorders, etc., with homoeopathic medicines and other therapies. The Motto of the centre is ‘Reaching to the Unreached.’
Samsara Paediacare (OPC) Private Limited, Boond
Samsara Paediacare (OPC) Pvt Ltd is an assistive technology company that has designed ‘Boond’, a feeder through which cleft babies are fed a drop at a time. Boond ensures that the cleft babies are fed safely from birth until year one through all milestone surgeries, following medical compliances.
Rymo Technologies Private Limited, Portable robotic rehabilitation device
Rymo Technologies Private Limited’s Mobi L support product is a portable robotic rehabilitation device that helps individuals undergoing physiotherapy recover faster by providing personalised training. It occupies only two sq. ft. of floor space and is 10 times more affordable in comparison to other products in the market.
India Signing Hands Private Limited, Broadcasts news, and entertainment in a deaf-friendly accessible format
India Signing Hands broadcasts daily news and entertainment online in deaf-friendly accessible formats including visual images with titles, voice-over and closed captions. Moreover, it has developed ISL courses for parents who have children with hearing disabilities and also with doctors, public service officers’ employers encouraging them to communicate with customers who are deaf.
Vispala Technologies Private Limited
Through frugal engineering and 3D printed design and manufacturing, Vispala has brought comfortable and lightweight products in an affordable price range with quality, durability, aesthetics and features that are available in many high-priced products. The company aims to build a landmark sustainable social enterprise in the robotics for disabilities space.
Subhash Chandra Vashisth, Centre for Accessibility in Built Environment Foundation
Subhash is a lawyer and a specialist in Accessibility, Universal Design and Diversity Inclusion. He is a certified professional in Accessible Built Environments Level III-Expert (CPABE Level III), the first in India to achieve this credential. He co-founded the Centre for Accessibility in Built Environment Foundation on April 1, 2016. He authored the report Handbook on Barrier-Free Urban Infrastructure, highlighting the lack of accessibility in urban infrastructure and giving out a comparative study of national standards and international best practices.
Phonologix Health Solutions Private Limited:
Launched in January 2020 to provide online speech therapy to children with speech, language and communication disorders, Phonologix Health Solutions aims to make speech therapy more accessible and affordable to approximately 20 million children with disorders or delays that affect their speech, language and communication. The sessions are conducted online through the use of technology and automation, irrespective of the beneficiary’s location, hence making it more accessible and convenient.
This year, more than 72 applications were received from across the country and even overseas. and amongst them, the top 12 were chosen as winners. The jury for the prestigious award comprised: Mr Som Mittal, Chairman, NCPEDP; Ms Shilpi Kapoor, Founder, and CEO, Barrier Break; Mr Nipun O S, AVP, and Head- CSR, Mphasis; Mr Pulkit Aggarwal, Investment Director – Assistive Technologies, Social Alpha; and Gaurav Raheja, Head Department of Architecture and Planning, Joint Faculty, Department of Design, IIT- Roorkee.