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Google.org donates $20M to improve tech for the disabled

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Google’s charitable arm, Google.org, has awarded $20 million in grants to nonprofits around the world developing open source technology that helps disabled people. The company launched its Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities last spring, and this week announced the competition’s 30 winners. These include projects developing open source 3D-printed prosthetics, digital libraries for the visually impaired, and devices that turn any manual wheelchairs into powered ones (pictured above). Six of the thirty grantees have been given more than $1 million, while the average grant is $750,000, reports Wired.

“One in three people with a disability lives in poverty.”

Google.org cites a number of dramatic statistics that motivated its involvement, including the fact that more than 1 billion people worldwide are estimated to live with disabilities. “And regardless of the country or community they live in, the gaps in opportunity for people with disabilities are striking,” writes the challenge’s lead, Brigitte Hoyer Gosselink. “One in three people with a disability lives in poverty. In places like the United States, 50 to 70 percent of people with disabilities are unemployed; in developing countries that number increases to 80 to 90 percent.”

The projects that Google.org has backed seem to reflect its parent company’s attitude to the world, treating the challenges faced by people with disabilities as problems that can be overcome with a bit of smart engineering. The Perkins School for the Blind, for example, has been awarded $750,000 to create a ‘micronavigation’ app that fills in the fine detail missed by traditional GPS, like bus stops and entrance doors. Fellow grantee Click2Speak has been awarded $400,000 to improve its on-screen keyboard for people with motor disabilities, and e-NABLE received $600,000 to design cheap, 3D-printed prosthetics for children.

For a full list of recipients and more information on the work they’re doing, you can check out Google.org’s Impact Challenge: Disabilities homepage.

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