By SHAUN HEASLEY
May 27, 2015
Google announced this week that it will provide millions of dollars in funding to groups that are using technology to change the lives of people with disabilities. (Patrick Tehan/Bay Area News Group/TNS)
Google is looking to address the needs of a billion people with disabilities worldwide and it’s putting big bucks behind the effort.
The Internet search giant said this week that Google.org — the company’s charitable arm — is offering up $20 million to nonprofits “using emerging technologies to increase independence for people living with disabilities.”
As part of the initiative dubbed “The Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities,” the company is also asking people with disabilities to suggest problems that they would like to see addressed with the grant money.
Google has already committed funding to two groups — the Enable Community Foundation which links people needing prosthetics with volunteers who use 3D printers to create them at no cost and World Wide Hearing which will use the funds to develop a low-cost kit to detect hearing loss using smartphone technology.
“The Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities will seek out nonprofits and help them find new solutions to some serious ‘what ifs’ for the disabled community. 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,” Jacquelline Fuller, director of Google.org, said in a blog post.
Alongside the monetary commitment, Google said it will work to ensure accessibility of its own products and add new offerings that benefit people with disabilities. The company cited its work developing self-driving cars as well as Liftware, a utensil designed to help people with hand tremors eat more easily, as examples of its existing work in this space.
“Historically, people living with disabilities have relied on technologies that were often bulky, expensive and limited to assisting with one or two specific tasks. But that’s beginning to change,” Fuller wrote. “Together, we can create a better world, faster.”
Advisers for the new project include autism self-advocate Temple Grandin and Catalina Devandas Aguilar, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities.