5 Startups Contributing To The Inclusion Of People With Disabilities

June 12, 2020

15% of the world’s population experience some form of disability. People with disabilities are subject to various barriers to social and economic inclusion, such as inadequate access to physical environments and transportation, lack of assistive technology and equipment, lack of access to public and private services, various social and institutional attitudes and discrimination, to name a few.

Since the adoption of The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006, there has been an exponential commitment across the world to ensure the elimination of obstacles and barriers for people with disabilities. Technology has a big role in that. At Allied for Startups, we see startups stepping up to develop innovative solutions that empower people with disabilities. Here is a list of 5 startups developing solutions that make a meaningful impact.

Be My Eyes is a free app that provides visual assistance to people with vision impairment or vision loss and enables them to lead more independent lives. How does this work? When users need support, for example, when shopping, reading documents and street signs or familiarising themselves with a new environment – all they need to do is open the app which then connects them to one of the platform’s volunteers via a live video call. The platform is used by more than 220 thousand people and has more than 3.79 million sighted volunteers in 150 countries, speaking over 180 languages. Since the app was launched in 2015 by a Danish entrepreneur, it has won numerous awards, raised over €5 million in funding, and received support from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme.

Visualfy, a Spanish startup, provides hearing accessibility solutions for people with hearing loss. Their AI-based sound recognition technology transforms the sounds of the user’s environment into vibrations and visual notifications on a smartphone or other device. Visualfy Home is the home solution that enables people to manage everyday tasks easier, such as waking up in the morning, receiving notifications on house alarms, home appliances, and doorbell. The startup also offers a solution for public and private entities, such as offices, hotels, libraries and town halls. By adopting Visualfy’s technology, entities can ensure the accessibility and inclusion of people with hearing loss, who can use a free app to receive notifications while working or visiting these environments.

Handiscover is a startup from Sweden that developed an accommodation booking platform and online community for travellers with reduced mobility and physical disability. The platform makes it a lot easier to find and book accessible accommodation. Users can choose from thousands of certified hotels and rentals worldwide, based on their level of mobility and special needs. Since Handiscover launched in 2014, more than 35,000 properties in over 100 countries joined the platform. The startup has recently secured €1.6M in funding through the EU’s EIC Accelerator.

Voiceitt leverages AI-powered speech recognition and deep learning technologies to provide a new dimension of independence and quality of life for people with speech and motor disabilities. The startup is developing an app that learns the user’s unique way of speaking and translates non-standard and dysarthric speech into clear speech in real-time. Voiceitt is also working to integrate its technology with mainstream voice-controlled devices, such as smart home systems. The Israel-based startup is supported by a combination of over $13 million in investments and grants, including a €1.2 million grant from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme.

Wayfindr is a non-profit startup that aims to empower millions of people with vision impairment or vision loss to commute and travel independently and confidently through inclusive audio navigation. Wayfindr’s team developed the world’s first internationally-approved Open Standard for accessible audio navigation. Open Standart will help lower the barrier for built-in environments owners, from transport networks to shopping malls to hospitals, and digital navigation services to make their environments, products and services inclusive from the outset. People with vision impairments will benefit from a consistent audio navigation experience as they travel throughout cities and various in-door environments. Wayfindr trials have taken place in London, Sydney, Oslo, Los Angeles, Barcelona and other locations.

These are some of the many examples demonstrating how the adoption of cutting-edge technologies is paving the way for more inclusive societies. Startups are providing some of the most innovative solutions in the field, from assistive devices and specialised online platforms to AI-powered technology, bringing the world one step closer to barriers-free reality.

Through our latest campaign, #DSA4startups, we raise the voices of startups in the conversation about how online platforms are regulated at the European Union level. We believe startups have the ability to transform people’s lives through empowerment and innovation. Hence rules should empower startups across Europe and beyond as they scale-up.