People with disabilities continue to be one of the most underrepresented communities in our country. For instance, People who are blind or visually impaired need to rely on volunteers to read out content especially if it is printed or inaccessible with other technologies they use. I-Stem, founded by people with disabilities themselves, seeks to change this using technology.
On 25th March, as part of our fifth annual event Inclusive Stem Confluence, we launched our mobile app in Delhi that helps blind people take a picture of printed material and convert it into completely accessible and usable formats. It also allows users to upload documents that are otherwise inaccessible and incompatible with their assistive technology (technology that converts text into speech) and convert them into accessible formats. The app also includes learning resources that help educate right from basic assistive technology to the latest cutting-edge tech. Transcripts for videos and text extraction from visual content are other features supported.
The app is currently available on the Android play store and also has a web interface. The goal of the app is to address the book famine that the disability community faces, while also enhancing access to critical digital information which often is inaccessible such as circulars and notices, reports, and research papers among others. The app has been developed as part of a grant from The GSMA Innovation Fund for Assistive Tech, which is supported by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.
Besides the launch of the app, the two-day event brought together over 100 people with disabilities from across the country and corporates such as Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, Intel, Oracle, etc. to network, learn from each other, discuss issues around disability, inclusion and accessibility and ideate on solutions. Some of the topics discussed included career discussions and the role of accessibility and technology for people with disabilities across industries and sectors, professional branding (resumes and LinkedIn profiles), disability disclosure, accessibility in corporate India, online learning, international education, entrepreneurship, community initiatives among others. Several candidates with disabilities were also considered for recruitment opportunities. Participants also worked together to develop solutions to various challenges faced by people with disabilities as part of an ideathon.