Assistive Technology Development in India
People need affordable, locally usable and accessible techonology soluntions that can overcome some of the challenges. However, there are no organised sector players in this field severly restricting the large scale adoption of AT.
There are also state run financing programs such as ADIP – Assistance to Disabled persons for purchase/fitting of assistive devices. However, many available technologies are completely out of reach w.r.to these assistance schemes, limiting the devices to the low end of the spectrum. Due to the unorganized nature of these populations, most don’t have access to bank accounts and loans, leave alone comprehensive medical insurance coverage to help fund purchase of relevant AT devices for them to learn skills and earn livelihoods.
Part of the solution - Affordable AT
People need affordable, locally usable and accessible technology solutions that can overcome some of the challenges listed above. However, there are almost no organized sector players in this field severely restricting the large scale adoption of AT. There are a few educational institutions like IITs that have been developing next generation AT that could increase the access and productivity of a large section of this population. However, many of these have remained in the labs instead of reaching the intended audience in volumes.
MindTree Foundation’s role
MindTree Foundation’s charter to support the cause of people with disabilities was born out this challenge. Formally launched as a not-for-profit wing of one of India’s best Mid-Size IT service companies, the foundation aims to leverage on the extensive technology and leadership capabilities of the company to make significant impact in the area of AT. MindTree offers its global clients a complete range of services in product engineering and enterprise IT services. (Please visit www.mindtree.com for more details)
The Product Engineering group especially offers “Chip –to-Cloud” services – right from designing complex integrated circuits and complete equipment all the way to building portals and applications that run on mobile devices. The group also boasts of one India’s finest medical electronics design teams. This is the team that currently anchors most of the AT development activities on behalf of MindTree Foundation Guiding Principles of MindTree Foundation’s AT Program: The key principles for AT development within MindTree are:
Affordability – the intended audience is the differently abled people among the poor, the slum dwellers and the rural population. The technologies we develop should be stripped of all bells and whistles. Open source is always the first preference. Commonly available material and components to be used to avoid cost escalations. Reuse available technology to the best extent possible to avoid wasted efforts and money
Applicability – the technologies should be intuitively usable by majority of the intended audience. That includes elimination of complex controls and user interfaces, localization of graphics and accents, provision of personalized recorded messages instead of synthesized content etc.
Due to the nature of intended audience, the products will need to have a high level of reliability and stability. This means, even though the target costs are very low, the quality and reliability will still need to be world class. MindTree Medical electronics experience comes in quite handy here.
- Since there is a large inventory of AT solutions already developed as proof of concepts in the labs of IIT and other institutions, a major part of the activity will also be to take these solutions, make them conform to industrial strength and use the existing network of partners to manufacture, distribute and support these technologies to a larger audience. We will also collaborate with partners in the NGO/care giver sectors in the need identification, product validation and information dissemination processes.