Aiming to foster an inclusive environment and culture through giving participants a first-hand experience, the Inclusive STEM Confluence 2020 was conducted at IIIT Bangalore during 17-18 January 2020. This event was attended by close to 120 persons over two days, mainly from the IT industry, higher technical institutions, special schools for persons with disabilities and non-government organizations working in the area of accessibility. In its third year, this event aims to question our, often, 'knee jerk' reaction to diversity, striving to make inclusion an everyday aspect of our work and educational environments rather than something that needs special attention. The 2020 Confluence had multiple tracks: workshops, a 24-hour hackathon, round table discussions, an assistive technology product exposition and an employer connect initiative.
On 17th January Participants without disabilities attended workshops on disability 101 and accessibility whilst our participants with disabilities got a chance to hone their technical skills through workshops on machine learning, block chain, data structure and algorithms.
The Hackathon track saw, seven 'inclusive' teams, each consisting of 5-6 persons from among persons with disabilities (PWDs - visually impaired, hearing impaired and those with locomotor disabilities) as well as other non-PWD working professionals from the IT industry and students from higher technical institutions (mainly IITs, IIITs and NITs) participated in the 24-hour hackathon. Wipro, Intel, Deutsche Bank, Electrobit were amongst some of the companies that participated. Of the top three teams, the first placed team developed a voice enabled flow chart reader for visually impaired programmers, the second placed team developed an intrusion detection application to be used by both visually impaired and hearing impaired computer users and the third placed team worked on a 'spot-me' application that would enable visually impaired persons inside classroom settings to understand if they were being spoken with.
Round table discussions
The event also had two roundtable discussions. One of the round tables focused on introducing courses and specialization streams in the area of diversity and inclusion (D&I) in existing post-graduate programmes while the other looked at challenges and opportunities of inclusion within school curricula. While the former saw participation of D&I leads from corporate organizations, the latter was attended by principals and teachers from schools for the visually impaired in Bangalore along with organizations working on inclusive education.
The Product Expo
The Product Expo at the event had a range of companies working in assistive technology space demonstrate their devices for the visitors. Tactopus Trestle Labs, Continual Engine, Touche'tech, Enability Foundation were amongst those who were present.
Employer Connect Program
This was also the first year of holding a formal Employer Connect program where registered corporates got an opportunity for screening and hiring from the high talent pool of IT professionals from the group of persons with disabilities. The event saw 8 leading firms register and screen candidates. 1 summer internship for a candidate has already been confirmed whilst other employers are continuing their screening processes.
The Inclusive STEM Confluence 2020 was organized by I-Stem, E-Health Research Centre (EHRC) at IIIT Bangalore, Vision Aid, Vision Empower and the Xavier Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged (XRCVC) and sponsored by Intel, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley and the Dhun Pestonji Parakh Discretionary Trust.