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Google.org Invests $20M In Disability-Focused Tech Companies

April 13, 2016 - Written By Daniel Fuller

It’s well known that Google is a philanthropy outfit and tech outfit in equal measures, mostly dabbling in making the world better through technology. As well as their own work, including moonshot projects like Loon, they normally help get startups and nonprofits off the ground through funding, assistance with the work itself or both, in some cases. One way they do this is through their Impact Challenges. Last year’s challenge centered around disabilities. Google looked for tech firms who looked to make the world easier to navigate for the disabled of any sort through technology. Through their humanitarian arm, Google.org, they have found 30 fitting entities and split a whopping $20 million between them.

According to Google’s report, there are over a billion people suffering from disabilities worldwide and, with the way technology is right now, it’s difficult for these billion people to interact with the world around them and the tech that most people use every day. While accessibility features on things like smartphones and PCs are a big help, they don’t cover the entire spectrum of possible cases where technology could help the disabled. Those missing pieces are exactly what Google was looking for when they found over 1,000 entities across 88 countries working for the technological betterment of the lives of disabled people worldwide. Google selected these winners based on factors like usefulness, scalability potential and openness. Naturally, all of the outfits involved have promised to make their technology open-source to facilitate its spread as far as possible, giving it the best chance of helping as many people as possible.

Among the bigger winners were The Center of Discovery, who got a $1.125 million grant for their manual to powered wheelchair addon, indieGo. Meanwhile, the Perkins School For The Blind got $750,000 from Google.org for their technology meant to crowdsource information from sighted people to help with exact navigation for the blind, giving them the ability to find things like bus stops, restaurants and friends’ homes more easily. Miraclefoot, a clubfoot treatment outreach, received a cool million. Another $400,000 went to aid in the development of Click2Speak, an innovative hands-free onscreen keyboard. Google points out that these efforts should increase accessibility and thus opportunities for the billion disabled people out there, one of three of whom reportedly lives in poverty. You can head though the source link for more details on the grants and to see the full list of award winners.