An app that converts text into sign language and another that helps people with visual impairments navigate their surroundings, are some of the ideas that have won the support of a government programme that will help turn the plans into reality.
Ten teams with ideas to help improve the lives of people with disabilities were declared the winners of the first Maan Social Incubator programme last week. They were chosen from 130 applicants from around the world and will be given up to Dh200,000 in funding to help get their projects off the ground. The money will be awarded in instalments as each team meets certain milestones throughout the development of their enterprise.
The programme was launched by Maan, the Authority of Social Contribution, which was established by the Department of Community Development in Abu Dhabi in May to encourage the development of concepts and start-up projects that help people with disabilities tackle the issues they face in their communities.
The winners of the programme will be mentored and undergo a series of workshops over the course of 16 weeks, beginning this month, to help them develop their ideas into a product or service.
Maan will also host "demo days" to present the 10 winning teams' concepts for review and evaluation, as well as to leverage funding from investors.
“We [...] are now fully focused on helping the entrepreneurs to make their dream become a reality,” said Salama Al Ameemi, Director General of Maan.
“These social start-ups will contribute towards establishing sustainable social solutions for people of determination and raising their standard of living in Abu Dhabi and the UAE in general, with an ambition for global impact in the future. This is a hugely important phase in our first incubator programme, and we are very much looking forward to working with the committed and passionate people leading each of the start-ups, making their concepts and projects a reality.”
Of the winners, six live in the UAE while the others are from the UK, Brazil, Jordan and India.
The 10 winners
- Accessible Ad: A platform for information, expertise, training and support to ensure effective accessibility for people with disabilities in Abu Dhabi
- The Butterfly Foundation: An advocacy agency to bring support and empowerment to people with disabilities in Abu Dhabi
- The Camp: An inclusion-safe, seasonal, mobile sleepover camp for children with disabilities in the UAE
- I Hear You: A mobile app that enables communication from text to sign language and vice versa
- Inclusive: An online platform serving as an umbrella for all things inclusion-related in the UAE
- Key2Enable: Assistive technology that empowers people with disabilities to use tablets, computers and smartphones with adapted hardware and accessories
- Martha Edu: Educational smartcards and mobile app to teach children and parents with hearing impairments sign language
- Ioptyc by Nexart: A solution for people with visual impairments to navigate their surroundings through the use of distance-judging sensors and visual-recognition technology
- RAB3I: A social venture that offers people with disabilities an opportunity to attend recreational activities with a trained "buddy" who shares similar interests
- Heroes of Hope: A social enterprise delivering equal opportunities for people with disabilities, including recreational activities, work opportunities and sporting events