Perkins Assistive Technology Prize offered at MassChallenge 2013

Mass Challenge
July 30, 2013

Convinced that creative entrepreneurs can make the world a better place, Perkins is again backing entrepreneurs who focus on enhancing quality of life for people with disabilities. The Perkins Assistive Technology Prize is offered as part of MassChallenge 2013 start-up accelerator competition. The $25,000 in grants, drawn from a donation earmarked for technological solutions, promotes Perkins' global mission to empower individuals with disabilities to reach their personal potential.

"Joining with MassChallenge is a natural for us," says Perkins President Steven Rothstein. "It's in everyone's interest to urge entrepreneurs to consider accessibility because better access for people with disabilities means better access for all." Perkins has a 184-year history of innovation in educating people who are blind or deafblind.

Perkins Assistive Technology Prize, administered through MassChallenge, seeks to spur the development of new, low- and high-technology. The innovation could apply to any sector of life (education, transportation, recreation, communications, vocational, etc.) and could be designed for individuals with a specific disability (vision loss, hearing loss, mobility, etc.), or a universal market application. Details and application information at www.MassChallenge.org.

Last year's two awards went to Plen-Optika's low-cost handheld device for prescribing corrective lenses with a click of a button, and G.R.I.T.'s novel wheelchair made from affordable bicycle parts. It offers unparalleled mobility on rough terrain. Both inventions were inspired by an urgent need to serve people in remote regions. At the same time, both devices have universal applications.

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.

Among working age adults who are blind, the U.S. unemployment rate is an estimated 70 percent. In developing countries, it can be virtually impossible for people with limited vision to find work at all. This is not for lack of motivation or ability among those potential workers. The key to employability often lies in finding the tools to make the workplace – office, factory or home – more accommodating to workers with vision loss. Creative and practical high-tech or low-tech solutions can also open employers' minds to the possibilities of this valuable workforce.

"Perkins sees first-hand how assistive technology can provide gateways to opportunity for people with disabilities," said Akhil Nigam, Founder and President, MassChallenge Inc. "Their continued support demonstrates their commitment to spurring more entrepreneurs to create practical accessibility solutions that breakdown barriers."

Assistive technology allows people with disabilities to be productive workers, to process information, and to put their ideas into action. Innovation can be applied in countless ways to provide mobility for people with physical disabilities, communication access for those with hearing or vision loss, 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.

Perkins provides education, services and products to people who are blind, deafblind, or visually impaired with other disabilities, to build more productive and meaningful lives. Perkins pursues this mission both locally and globally. Founded in 1829, Perkins reaches more than a half million people each year in 67 countries around the world. The organization advances its mission through its various divisions: School for the Blind, International, Library, eLearning, and Products. Learn more at www.Perkins.org.

MassChallenge is the largest-ever startup accelerator and competition, and the first to support high-impact, early-stage entrepreneurs with no strings attached.

Benefits for startups include:

  • Four-month accelerator program. World-class mentorship and training, free office space, access to funding, legal advice, cofounders, media exposure and more.
  • Over $1 million in cash awards. $10M+ in-kind support.
  • Open to all. Any early-stage startup can enter, from anywhere in the world, in any industry.
  • No equity taken. No restrictions applied.
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