Five organisations led by disabled people are to benefit from a new “accelerator” programme that aims to boost their work on social inclusion.
Disability Rights UK (DR UK), Inclusion London, Love Language, Grid Smarter Cities and SociAbility are all disabled-led and are among the first 10 organisations to be chosen for the OpenDoor “inclusion accelerator” pilot programme.
The programme will provide them with workshops, mentoring and one-to-one support that is designed to help them develop their own products, services and projects.
It is being run by Plexal, the innovation centre and “coworking space” based in the Olympic Park in east London.
DR UK will be receiving support for its plan to create an online marketplace for disabled innovators and entrepreneurs to showcase their products and services to other disabled people.
Kamran Mallick, chief executive of DR UK, said: “We want to address the problem of how disabled people find the right products and services that offer solutions for everyday barriers to living independently, especially when most products and services are developed and marketed by non-disabled people and companies.
“The marketplace would also showcase peer-tested and recommended items for sale.
“These can be tech solutions such as apps that help you find accessible routes or give you information on access levels at places like restaurants, to everyday independent living equipment.”
Mallick (pictured) said the 12-week programme would support DR UK to “test and learn” and “support us in refining the idea to a point that we can pitch to potential investors”.
He said: “OpenDoor will give us access to industry mentors, who will bring their extensive knowledge on how the tech industry uses tried and tested techniques to evaluate ideas and bring them to the market.”
Love Learning, a collaboration between Love Language and Idea East, uses digital technology to tackle the disparity between the number of Deaf people and the number of available British Sign Language interpreters.
Plexal plans to help prototype the technology and present it to investors.
SociAbility provides detailed accessibility information for local social venues and shops, while Travel MI by Grid Smarter Cities aims to improve accessible wayfinding in busy areas, particularly airports.
Plexal will support SociAbility and Travel MI by helping them build partnerships with transport organisations.
And Inclusion London is supporting internships for young people with learning difficulties, with Plexal helping to set up the programme with employers in the Olympic Park.
Last month, Plexal and its partners announced the launch of the East London Inclusive Enterprise Zone (ELIEZ), which it described as the UK’s most accessible technology hub.
ELIEZ will develop an accessible space for entrepreneurs and businesses leaders who are disabled or are focused on providing products or services to disabled people.
It will also aim to build on the London 2012 Paralympic Games legacy by developing links with Tokyo 2020 and Paris 2024.
Among Plexal’s partners on ELIEZ are Inclusion London, DR UK, Loughborough University, UCL (University College London), Greater London Authority and the Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDIH), which is based on UCL’s Olympic Park campus.
ELIEZ aims to meet some of the “enormous international need for disability innovation and assistive technology” and has set itself a target of launching 100 new start-ups.
It says it wants to “kick-start the UK’s first inclusive innovation sector”.
Its partners highlight the fact that only one in 10 disabled people currently has access to the assistive technology they need to go to school, work, or have a family.
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