Google has announced the beneficiaries of a $20 million grant (£14 million) for organisations building tech for people with disabilities.
The Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities received submissions from 1,000 different companies, and the prize pot has been split between 30 winners — tackling everything from smart glasses for blind people to mapping technology for people in wheelchairs and treatment for clubfoot.
The challenge was organised by Google.org, the charitable arm of Californian search giant Google. Launched in May 2015, it aimed to “seek out nonprofits and help them find new solutions to some serious ‘what ifs’ for the disabled community,” Google.org director Jacquelline Fuller wrote at the time. “We will choose the best of these ideas and help them to scale by investing in their vision, by rallying our people and by mobilizing our resources in support of their missions.”
The winners range from British blindness charities to projects to help leprosy suffers, with two hailing from the UK — Motivation UK, and Wayfindr. Motivation is 3D printing “postural support devices” for wheelchair users to ensure they fit properly, and improve their health; it has been given a £573,737 grant. Wayfindr, with the Royal Society for the Blind, is building tech that can help blind people navigate independently by providing narrated directions. It got $1 million (£700,000.)
“The Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities set out to accelerate the use of technology to create meaningful change in the lives of the one billion people in the world with a disability,” project lead Brigitte Hoyer Gosselink wrote in a blog post announcing the winners. “We’re eager to watch as all of the fund’s grantees, selected from over 1,000 submissions from around the world, build new solutions that will transform lives and make the world more accessible for all.”
Leprosy Mission Trust India was given $350,000 (£245,000) to go towards 3D printing customisable footwear for people who have been affected by leprosy to allow them to keep walking. DAISY Consortium is working on digital publishing industry standards to ensure new publications are compatible with accessibility tools used by disabled people. Wheelmap is creating a database of wheelchair-accessible locations to help people who rely on wheelchairs get around; it was granted €825,000 (£660,000). World Wide Hearing is building a cheap diagnostic tool to screen people for potential hearing loss.