K.G. Satheesh Kumar, director of the Centre for Assistive Technology and Innovation, National Institute of Speech and Hearing, Thiruvananthapuram, has stressed the need for formulating a national policy on assistive technology (AT) for the differently abled.
He believes such a policy would help create a network of AT providers across the country. Dr. Kumar was speaking at the inauguration of the ‘Assistive Technology Hackathon’ held the All India Institute of Speech and Hearing (AIISH) here on Saturday. The event was organised to encourage students and faculty to undertake projects on development of assistive technologies for persons with communication disorders.
In his speech, Dr. Kumar said end-user funding can be channelised through AT providers, thereby creating bargaining power for the users over the manufacturers. Increased demand will drive innovation and efficiency and bring down costs, besides increasing research and development, thus making AT products more affordable for Indian consumers. “We need a national AT policy to make this happen,” he said.
He added that leading research and educational institutions, including AIISH, have produced several useful AT products but there have been many challenges in getting those products to the end users. “Lack of awareness among users, their families and caregivers is the primary problem, and this needs to be addressed through consistent efforts over a period of time. People with disabilities also need to be trained on how to use AT,” he said.
Dr. Kumar said many assistive technologies developed in India have failed to turn into successful products for want of product engineering and an industry to undertake their production. “The uninspiring interest has been largely because of the low volumes that stand in the way of profitability. Individual AT developers and providers have constraints in addressing these issues effectively,” he said.
Harish Mysore, director of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, India Operations, in his address, mentioned that the institute was keen to continue its collaboration with AIISH to see that technology is used to transform the life of persons with disabilities.
Pradeep Balachandran, chair, IEEE Special Interest Group on Communication Disability, thanked AIISH for providing a platform to conduct the hackathon. He said IEEE had plans to create a group on visual impairment.