Google gives $20m to fund technology helping disabled people

Winners of the cash include a tool to help blind people navigate their environments

Google's philanthropic arm, Google.org, is to donate $20 million in funding to 30 non-profit organisations developing technology to help disabled people.

The announcement marks the end of the Google Impact Challenge for Disabilities, an open call for companies developing technology that could help people with disabilities, which attracted over 1,000 organisations across 88 countries.

The winning ideas include indieGo - an open source add-on that converts manual wheelchairs into a power chair (with added mobility at less cost), a toolset that crowdsources location data for those with sight problems, and a flexible on-screen keyboard for people with high cognitive function but impaired motor skills.

Brigitte Hoyer Gosselink, leader of Google's Impact Challenge, wrote in an official blog post: "More than a billion people have a disability. And regardless of the country or community they live in, the gaps in opportunity for people with disabilities are striking.

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"The organisations we're supporting all have big ideas for how technology can help create new solutions, and each of their ideas has the potential to scale. Each organisation has also committed to open sourcing their technology which helps encourage and speed up innovation in a sector that has historically been siloed."

A third of people living with a disability live in poverty, Google claimed, and in the US between 50 and 70 per cent of people with a disability are unemployed. In developing countries, just 10 per cent of people with disabilities have access to required assistive devices.

"From employment to education, communication to mobility, each of our grantees is pushing innovation for people with disabilities forward," Gosselink continued. "With all these efforts, our aim [is to] create a world that works for everyone."

Image courtesy of Google.org

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