GLOBAL • EDUCATION
FEBRUARY 25, 2021
Almost everyone is prone to experience some form of disability, temporary or permanent, at some point in life. People with disabilities, on average as a group, are more likely to experience adverse socioeconomic outcomes than persons without disabilities.
In fact, more than one billion people are living with some form of disability and this number is increasing; the one billion people represents 15% of the world’s population. The increase is due to demographic trends and an increase in chronic diseases, among other causes.
Almost everyone faces difficulties at one time or another. But for people with limitations, barriers can be more prevalent and have a greater impact. The World Health Organization (WHO) describes barriers as more than just physical obstacles. There are some factors in a person's environment that, through the absence or presence of them, limit functioning and create disability. These include elements like:
Disability may also increase the risk of poverty, through lack of employment and education opportunities, lower wages, and increased cost of living with a disability. Paradoxically poverty may increase the risk of disability through malnutrition, inadequate access to education and health care, unsafe working conditions, a polluted environment, and lack of access to safe water and sanitation.
Currently, according to the UN, people with disabilities are among those most affected by COVID-19. Even under normal circumstances, the one billion people with disabilities around the world are less likely to access education, health care, employment, and more likely to experience violence and live in poverty.
The Mada Center is a leading non-profit organization based in Qatar that works in the field of ICT access locally and internationally to enable Persons with Disabilities (PWD) and the elderly. Mada was founded in 2010 as an initiative that aims at promoting digital inclusion and building a technology-based community that meets the needs of persons with functional limitations (PFLs), persons with disabilities (PWDs) and the elderly.
Seedstars is an international consulting, education and impact investment company headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, our work spans 90+ countries with 12 coworking hubs around the globe. We support the world’s most ambitious and dedicated entrepreneurs in growing and scaling their businesses to create meaningful and lasting change.
In one generation, technology has radically changed the way most people live their lives. However, accessible technology not only changes but enriches the lives of the people who use it, providing the opportunity to be independent and do the things they love and want to do.
Technology has opened the door to so many things. Now, new devices and services are changing the landscape for blind people (e.g. Be My Eyes, Wayfindr, Lookout). Also, live transcribe is another feature that tech has enabled, letting hearing impaired people follow in-person communications live (e.g. Google Live Transcribe, AVA, Rogervoice).
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development places good health and well-being at the center of a new development vision. It emphasizes universal health coverage (UHC) to ensure sustainable development for all, so that everyone, anywhere, can access necessary health services without facing financial difficulties. Universal Health Coverage can be advanced inclusively only if people are able to access quality assistive products when and where they need them.
Through the Inclusive Digital Education Portal and the Culture and Community Portal, Mada Center is keen to provide the largest number of applications for local and global resources and services provided remotely that would allow people to obtain information, support and needs through one comprehensive and accessible platform.
Mada also provides digital accessibility consulting services and accreditation for digital platforms in accordance with international standards to support the right of persons with disabilities and the elderly to access information independently.
The Mada Center works to empower persons with disabilities and the elderly and support their independence through technology. In this context, Assistive Technology services are provided to people with disabilities and the elderly through Evaluation and Technical Support Sections, where Mada provides the necessary information, consultations, and technical support for assistive technology devices, solutions and their uses.
Mada’s experts also carry out research and analysis of ICT accessibility related innovations, policies and programs, so as to ensure constant knowledge and awareness of developments in the field. Through the Mada Innovation Program (MIP) portal platform, Mada supports upcoming entrepreneurs and innovators to develop innovative accessibility solutions to meet the needs of various PWDs including the Arabic speaking market.
At the national level, Mada Center has achieved a digital accessibility rate of 90% amongst government websites, while Qatar ranks first worldwide on the Digital Accessibility Rights Evaluation Index (DARE).
Mada Center has developed strategic partnerships with international institutions such as Kotra, Seedstars and Microsoft. The Ministry of Education and Higher Education - Training & Development Center, Carnegie Mellon University, HBKU, Qatar Foundation are some of the educational partners that support Mada. Another of the key sectors where Mada has also developed associations is in Community and Culture, and some of its partners are Qatar Central Bank, Qatar Museums, National Tourism Council among others.
Mada Center drives the ICT Accessibility research agenda and leads the advancement and dissemination of global, regional and international industry leading practices by carrying out research and analysis across a wide range of sector specific areas. Some of the latest researches are How Robots Could Improve Social Skills in Children with Autism and Cutting Edge Assistive Technology. They have also published guides and best practices, among his most recent publications are Awareness Guide to Prevent the Emerging Coronavirus COVID-19 using Tawasol symbols, Aging and Technology and Guide to Accessible Banking.
Mada has partnered with Seedstars for the past 3 years through different initiatives (MADA Assistive Tech Award 2018 and ICT Accessibility Award 2019/2020). The collaboration has intended to seek for the best ICT based innovative solution catered to improve access to quality education, community & cultural aspects of life such as transportation, tourism, sports, and retail. This partnership has been helping fulfill the aim of Mada to support the provision of opportunities for PWDs and the elderly to use their creative, artistic and intellectual potential independently.
The finalists of the competitions have had access to educational content and networking opportunities that have allowed them to continue growing, these experiences occurred during their participation in the Regional Summits or through online activities (2020/21 edition). In addition, all the winners have obtained a cash prize.
The winners have shown that their solutions have an impact on people's lives now more than ever.
Bonocle is the first ever braille entertainment platform for the blind. It democratizes technology through games, learning and work apps.
Bonocle's solution won the World Summit Award 2020 and it was nominated as the most innovative solution in Inclusion & Empowerment from Qatar.
Talov created SpeakLiz, an Artificial Intelligence communication tool designed as a complete solution for the worldwide deaf community, and SpeakLiz Vision, app using Artificial Intelligence in real time to identify objects, money, colors, approximate distances, read text and more; all through the phone's camera.
Recently, the company opened free access to its SpeakLiz and Vision technology for the hearing and visually impaired in Ecuador. Also the team won second prize in the History Channel's An Idea to Change History contest for the Speakliz Vision app.
Lazarillo is an application for the blind and visually impaired which guides users through their city and building environments with real-time voice messages.
One of its latest achievements has been to establish an alliance with Sodimac Chile to help people with visual disabilities to make their purchases online.
In the coming weeks, we will meet the winner of the 2021 award, stay tuned to find out who will be crowned as the highest potential tech-based ventures whose accessibility solution is helping to improve the lives of persons with disabilities.
Today, Mada is considered the world’s Center of Excellence in Arabic Digital Access for its great work supporting Persons with Disabilities (PWD) and the elderly. The organization will continue working to enable equal basis for PwDs and the elderly to take part in cultural life in line with the Arabic identity via ICT and to guarantee an inclusive education system at all levels and lifelong learning through ICT.
While it is true, the giants of the technology world have often created the platforms for innovation, finding ways for disabled people to use them can be the work of smaller enterprises. Accessibility isn’t optional, it must be part of every business and ecosystem, it needs to be managed and measured.
Partner with us to help design learning opportunities for entrepreneurs helping address the critical issues in emerging markets.
If you have any questions about Mada Center, contact Tiziana Bombassei ([email protected]), Project Coordinator.
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