Assistive technology and the economy
Boston Business Journal, March 16, 2012
By Steven M. Rothstein, Perkins School for the Blind President
Entrepreneurs have the power to launch new ways of thinking about the world and new products and services. Perkins School for the Blind is all about changing the way the world thinks about people with disabilities. That is why we have teamed with MassChallenge to encourage entrepreneurs to develop new business that promotes assistive technology that supports people with disabilities. The new $25,000 Perkins Assistive Technology Prize can help everyone win.
Disabilities can push people to the fringes of community and society, locking the wheels of a person on the move. Disabilities can stop forward motion through life if a person doesn’t have the right tools. Technology can get those wheels moving and open the gateways of information and ideas.
Putting the best minds to work developing high-tech or low-tech assistive devices can have a huge positive impact on a vast number of people. One-fifth of the U.S. population lives with some type of disability, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As the population grows and the baby boom generation ages, that number will rise rapidly. The need is urgent today and will continue to grow in the coming years.
We hope that Perkins can play a small role in promoting entrepreneurial creativity to generate new jobs and promote new assistive technologies for people with disabilities. Opportunities are ripe for solving accessibility problems at home, in the workplace, in schools and for transportation, for recreation and entertainment. If a talented person can help you build your business, wouldn’t it be great to bring them on board?
Assistive technology enables people with disabilities to excel in school, to be productive workers and to participate in their communities. Innovation can be applied in countless ways to provide mobility for people with physical disabilities, communication access for those with impaired hearing or vision, and adaptations we have yet to imagine. Together, Perkins and MassChallenge can put entrepreneurs’ imaginations in motion to find new ways to leap over disability to productivity and independence.
Urging entrepreneurs to develop assistive technologies promotes jobs, economic development and better access for people with disabilities. It means better access for all of us.