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Design crusaders foster accessibility, inclusivity for the disabled

NewsDesign crusaders foster accessibility, inclusivity for the disabled

NCPEDP-Mphasis Universal Design Awards have spread awareness about universal design in the past 13 years.


From making accessible search engine for the disabled to helping them dribble a ball for Coimbatore’s first wheelchair basketball team, the winners of NCPEDP-Mphasis Universal Design Awards 2023 have the tenacity to realise their aspirations through resilience and vision.  

Gunasekaran Jagadeesan, the founder of the Sittruli Foundation in Tamil Nadu’s Erode district, is one of the 14 awardees. Recognising a glaring need for para-sports, Gunasekaran teamed up with Ganga Hospitals and the Cognizant Outreach team to introduce wheelchair basketball to Coimbatore district in Tamil Nadu. They built a dedicated court at Ganga Spinal Rehabilitation Centre and secured 15 sports wheelchairs through Motivation India partnerships. Since 2018, they have hosted state-level tournaments, the South Indian Zonal Tournament, and even organised inter-state exhibition tournament in Varanasi.

With a view to spreading awareness about universal design and popularising the concept, the NCPEDP-Mphasis Universal Design Awards have been conferred for the past 13 years. These awards acknowledge efforts of individuals and organisations dedicated to fostering accessibility and inclusivity in India through their innovative designs and inclusive projects.

Complementing the endeavour of National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) and Mphasis towards building an inclusive and sustainable future for persons with disability through the institution of Universal Design Awards, Union Minister for Civil Aviation and Steel Jyotiraditya Scindia said, “As India advances towards becoming the world’s third-largest economy by 2030, involving its entire 1.4 billion population is crucial for national development. In this journey from today’s status as the fifth-largest economy, the participation of differently-abled individuals is equally vital in achieving our ultimate goal of success.”

Arman Ali, Executive Director of NCPEDP, a non-profit organisation, said, “These incredible innovators and change makers are on a mission to make India a more accessible and inclusive place for all. Over the past 13 editions of these awards, we have witnessed an array of incredibly inspiring individuals and organisations who have scripted a new path for persons with disabilities through their innovations and persistent efforts.”
Awardee Dr Alka Rao shines as a trailblazer with a passion for inclusivity. As a Principal Scientist at the CSIR-Institute of Microbial Technology (IMTECH) in Chandigarh, she has not only made remarkable contributions to protein engineering but also dedicated herself to smashing barriers that hinder STEM education for individuals with disabilities, especially the deaf community. She leads the ISLEVL (Indian Sign Language Enabled Virtual Laboratory) project, funded by CSIR under the Jigyasa programme.

“The ISLEVL platform is a collaborative effort that brings together scientists, interpreters, content creators, and multimedia editors. It is accessible online and via the Google Play Store, ensuring that a wide audience can benefit from its resources. This initiative is part of our larger vision to break down barriers and make STEM education truly inclusive. Establishing the country’s first ISL-enabled astronomy lab in Karnal, revolutionising STEM education for the deaf, is a step towards our commitment,” said Dr Rao.

Another award winner, Puducherry’s Dr Balaji V is a pioneer in accessible computing. His work includes the “PARSER” model for enhanced search results and QR code-based sign language navigation, making technology more inclusive. His contributions extend to academia and advocacy, earning him multiple awards for his exceptional commitment to accessibility.

Museum of Possibilities and Museum Cafe from Chennai has also won the award. It’s a collaboration between the Department for Welfare of the Differently Abled in Tamil Nadu, Vidya Sagar, and The Foundation for Vocational Training, a pioneering resource centre for assistive technology, bridging users and innovators. The Museum Cafe empowers adults with disabilities with bakery, confectionery, and restaurant skills, promoting employment. The museum showcases low to high-tech solutions for accessibility in various life domains, inspiring 7,000-plus visitors.

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