As the world celebrates the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Global Disability Innovation Hub and Amref Enterprises Limited have today unveiled the five local entrepreneurs selected as finalists to the First Cohort of the Innovate Now Accelerator Program.
The five start-ups were picked from a total of 30 applicants who presented their assistive technology solutions to improve the overall wellbeing of persons with disabilities. The Innovate Now Accelerator will support entrepreneurs through expert mentorship, user-centred design, user-testing through a network of Live Labs, as well as access to seed funding.
Innovate Now is part of the UK Aid funded AT2030 Programme and it's Africa’s First Assistive Technology Innovation Ecosystem and Start-up Accelerator. During the next three years, Innovate Now will support 60 start-ups a quarter of which will track to scale.
The finalists include Vijana Reloaded, a start-up involved in eye testing, fitting and glasses sale and distribution; Hope Tech plus, which creates small handheld devices that use sensors to detect obstacles and give feedback to the user through different vibration patterns; Linccel Technologies, which makes electric wheelchairs to aid in mobility; Syna Consultancy that has developed a portable commode-like toilet that equips persons with disabilities with an accessible, dignified and hygienic toilet as well as help elevate their social status and boost their self-esteem, and Toto SciLTD, which has created an intelligent smart stick that allows users to call for help at the click of a button.
“We have entrepreneurs in this Assistive Technology space. However, the majority of the businesses fail not because they are bad ideas, but because they lack funding since investors are unwilling to engage in businesses that have undefined costs and undetermined demand. We are certain that this accelerator program will help increase the demand for these technologies and ultimately help the businesses grow," said Bernard Chiira, Innovate Now Director.
Selected through a judging process, the finalists will go through an intensive 6 months training and mentorship program, which will give them exposure to international investors and access to test facilities through live labs network that allow rapid Assistive Technology testing and feedback so as to ensure that the users of the innovations are at the heart of the product and service development.
With statistics showing that close to 1 billion people globally do not have access to Assistive Technology and the gap is likely to double by 2050, the Accelerator Program seeks to close the gap that exists between persons with disabilities and their access to assistive technologies. The program will also bring to light, discussions surrounding the plight of persons with disabilities.
“The conversations on the plight of persons with disabilities have been ongoing. The lack of access to assistive technologies by those who need them has resulted in communication barriers, which ought to be broken. One great way to break these barriers is to deal with the stigma surrounding disability to create demand for these products, and this will encourage investors to be part of these technologies,” said Cathy Holloway, Lead Judge of Innovate Now and Academic Director at the Global Disability Innovation Hub.