The one billion plus people around the world who live with a disability, physical or developmental, face enormous challenges that too often are ignored by the able-bodied majority. People with disabilities and those who love them endure despite these challenges, but they need advocates to help make the world accessible. It’s hard to think of a more influential, global advocate than Google. The tech giant recently announced the Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities, a $20 million grant program that aims to “build awareness, identify solutions and help create universal access for people with disabilities.”
The need for action to build an accessible, inclusive society is urgent. In developing countries, between 80 percent and 90 percent of adults with disabilities are unemployed and only 5 percent of children with disabilities worldwide complete primary school. In the United States, federal laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act provide some protection and support, but not nearly enough. My sister has lived with physical and developmental disabilities for her entire life. Growing up with her, I have observed that people with disabilities are virtually absent in able-bodied American media and culture. To build a truly accessible world, wide awareness of those with disabilities is essential and Google’s Impact Challenge represents a step in the right direction.
To develop practical solutions to the challenges faced by people with disabilities, Google has already collaborated with non-profit start-ups such as Mission Arm, E-Nable, and World Wide Hearing. Its new Impact Challenge aims to expand its commitment to accessibility as a core guiding principle of Google products and global mission. The Impact Challenge is separated into two phases, one of which is designed for the general public to submit its ideas in the form of “What If” questions. The other phase involves a request for innovators to respond to Google’s Open Call with their specific projects and applications.
The deadline to submit ideas to Google is September 30, 2015 at 2 pm PDT.