Google awards $20 million to 29 innovative disability nonprofits

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The Center for Discovery is developing the indieGo wheelchair add-on that converts any manual wheelchair into a powered chair

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Google has announced 29 winners of its Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities, which it launched in May last year to invest in non-profit organizations using technology to increase independence for disabled people around the world. The organizations will receive US$20 million in Google.org grants.

Google launched the challenge with an open call to global non-profits, seeking to find organizations that were developing "transformative technologies for the billion people around the world with disabilities." It received ideas from over 1,000 organizations in 88 countries.

In picking the winners, Google says it planned to provide resources to support their missions and investment to help them scale. Each winning organization has committed to open-sourcing their technology, so as to ensure that the help it can provide can be shared.

Google has picked out four winners by way of example. To begin, it has awarded $1.125 million to the Center for Discovery for its development of the indieGo wheelchair add-on that converts any manual wheelchair into a powered chair. The device is aimed at providing the mobility and freedom of a powered wheelchair at around one-seventh of the average cost.

The Perkins School for the Blind has been awarded $750,000 for its work tackling the "last 50 feet problem," whereby GPS can help direct blind people not just to an area, but to a precise point. The organization is creating an app via which navigation tips can be crowdsourced and logged in a standard format so as to help blind people find specific points.

A $1 million award has gone to Miraclefeet, which partners with local healthcare providers around the world to help children born with clubfoot. Its grant will go to providing support for families via SMS, using software to monitor patient progress and training to local clinicians online.

Finally, a $400,000 was awarded to Ezer Mizion and Click2Speak to help people with high cognitive function but impaired motor skills to better communicate. Their partnership is aiming to develop an affordable, flexible and customizable on-screen keyboard that provides hands-free operation.

All 29 projects that have been awarded grants through the Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities can be seen online.

Source: Google

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