In India, there are around 80 million people who have some or the other kind of disability, caused by age-related, accident-related, or medical conditions. As per research by the World Bank, one in every 12 households in India has a person who lives with disability. Several campaigns have been introduced to make life simpler for this community, but there’s still a long way to go!
Even today, disability is considered a stigma in our society, and such people are socially isolated. They face struggles day in and day out, sometimes with no help in sight. Fortunately, there are some women entrepreneurs who truly believe in the idea of an inclusive world, and have been consciously working to make the country a disabled-friendly place.
Neha Arora, Planet Abled
As a child, Neha always felt that she wanted to do more, but could not because her mother was wheelchair-bound, and her father was blind. Travelling with them was not easy, because most places were out of reach for the differently-abled. Often, she would stay confined to her home, or, at most, visit her grandparents.
She knew that even though people with disabilities wanted to travel, they could not. In 2015, she quit her job at Adobe and founded Planet Abled, providing accessible travel solutions for differently-abled people. This innovative startup organises scheduled group tours, local city tours, romantic tours, and customised tours for the differently-abled. The guests are assisted by dedicated resources, who help to interpret signs, and offer other services. Their official launch was marked with a tour to Qutub Complex and Mehrauli Archaeological Park in January 2016.
Maitri Shah, Mind Assets
This tech-based startup based out of Mumbai helps differently-abled people to learn skills that will help them get jobs. Most of these jobs are remote opportunities, so that these people feel at ease working from the comfort of their own homes. The edtech startup is working on introducing merit-based inclusivity.
The idea of Mind Assets stems from personal experience. Maitri was only six months old when she was diagnosed with congenital muscular dystrophy that impaired her mobility, making her wheelchair-bound. She was always ahead of the curve when it came to academics – she secured the first rank in MHT CET in the PwD (person with disability) category after scoring 95.09 percent in the SSC examination.
With Mind Assets, Maitri aims to break several conventions by helping the differently-abled through mentorship programmes and online courses. Today, many of their members have been empowered, and are working as graphic designers, content writers, and social media executives, among others.
Incubated by RiiDL and UnLtD India, the startup received an undisclosed partial funding earlier this year. Prior to this, Maitri also founded WillsOnWheels, an NGO to empower wheelchair-bound people.
Sminu Jindal, Svayam
Founded in 2000, Sminu Jindal’s Svayam endeavours to make India more accessible for people with reduced mobility. This Delhi-based startup is helping the differently-abled population travel to various parts of India, and over the years, it has been recognised for its efforts. In 2008, Svayam created history by making Qutub Minar, the UNESCO World Heritage Site, accessible for all. Besides, it became the first organisation to receive the National Tourism Award for Excellence, in association with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
Svayam believes in providing accessibility to all kinds of people, be it the elderly, children, pregnant women, women with babies, and, of course, those with disabilities. Everyone is entitled to use public infrastructure, and this is what Sminu is trying to ensure with her startup.
Over the years, Svayam has implemented several on-ground and digital awareness campaigns, giving recommendations to the government, designing the accessibility guideline, actively engaging in standards formulation on accessibility, and conducting numerous access audits around the world to make public infrastructure accessible.
Surabhi Srivastava, Innovision
There are only a few visually impaired people in the country, who can read and write Braille. To address this gap, IIT-Bombay alumni Surabhi Srivastava and Shyam Shah started Innovision in 2015. Their flagship product BrailleMe is an assistive technology that can be connected to any device via Bluetooth or USB to access files across devices with ease. What’s more, it also works as a Braille tablet in standalone mode with a USB drive or an SD card.
Incubated at SINE (Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship), IIT-Bombay, this device will help the visually impaired get more access to quality learning, thereby improving their job prospects.
Saloni Mehta, Tactopus
This list is incomplete without the mention of Bengaluru-based Tactopus that ensures inclusive learning for the differently-abled at a early age. Founded by IIT-Bombay alumna Saloni Mehta, the edtech startup, as the name suggests, designs tactile graphics and tangible learning solutions. Most of these include flashcards in braille and tactile graphics, and tactile storybooks. There’s also a mobile application that helps to make learning more interactive by utilising new-age technologies like advanced image processing and augmented reality. Initially designed for visually impaired children, the startup now caters to children with conditions like cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder, hearing impairment, speech and language disability, and cognitive disability.
The innovative startup offers 12 products, with complete mathematics lessons for first-grade students in partnership with the Maharashtra government. Tactopus has worked with over 35 schools in India and Singapore.
(Edited by Teja)
Follow us on Instagram for the latest updates.