Approximately 20% of the world’s population suffers from some form of a disability. Disabilities are broadly characterized as any condition that limits a person’s movements or activities. This can apply to people with both mental and physical challenges, of any age or demographic. Individuals with non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and stroke as well as conditions like dementia, autism and cerebral palsy all may be held back from certain life activities. The struggles of those with disabilities are varied, complex and often misunderstood, which makes it difficult for many to take part in the education system or the workforce, or get the medical care that they need.
Accessible technologies are changing the narrative for individuals with all kinds of disabilities, allowing them to live more integrated and independent lives. For example, when children have access to hearing aids, they are more readily able to strengthen their language skills and excel in educational environments. Additionally, therapeutic footwear for individuals with diabetes can decrease pain, which thereby decreases the strain they place on health systems. Assistive technologies can also allow elderly people to live at home when they otherwise wouldn’t be able to, decreasing the need for long-term care.
Despite these realities, only 10% of this population have access to these assistive technologies. This is in-part due to the high cost of these novel technologies and the lack of government funding in many countries.
The lead that Israel has taken in this sector is not only as a result of the country’s strong entrepreneurial spirit and innovative culture. It is also the product of an accessible technology incentive program founded by the Israel Innovation Authority. The program aims to support both for-profit and non-profit organizations that provide solutions for individuals with physical, emotional and cognitive challenges. Companies in the program get a variety of financial benefits that vary based on the company type and need, but provides increased support for minority and female founders.
There are dozens of Israeli companies that specialize in assistive technology. Below are some that stand out in spearheading the ability for individuals with disabilities to be able to thrive in their daily lives.
- Travaxy – Travaxy is a travel and booking platform tailored specifically for people with disabilities or general mobility issues, as well as those 65 and older who require assistance. travaxy is designed to recognize travelers needing additional assistance during the booking process, at which time it can offer them additional services as well as information about accessible attractions, concerts, and venues at their destination.
- Rewalk – ReWalk Robotics is a medical device company that designs, develops, and commercializes battery-powered gait-training and mobility solutions for individuals with lower limb disabilities. The company is focused on improving quality of life for individuals with lower limb disabilities through the creation and development of robotic technologies. The ReWalk solution allows users to independently operate the system in order to sit, stand, walk, turn, and climb and descend stairs.
- RightHear – RightHear has developed an advanced accessibility solution that uses three-component technology to provide individuals with impaired vision with tools to help them better orient themselves in public spaces, thereby increasing their independence. Since its launch, more than 800 venues have turned their public spaces into accessible environments for people with low-vision or orientation challenges. Available in 26 languages, RightHear currently helps users independently access hundreds of places previously inaccessible to them.
- OrCam Technologies – OrCam Technologies has developed a wearable assistive technology device for people who are blind, visually impaired, or have reading or other disabilities. OrCam’s MyEye communicates visual information by utilizing a small, intuitive smart camera that is mounted on the wearer’s eyeglass frames and connects to a pocket-sized computer. MyEye instantly and discreetly reads any text printed on any surface through a tiny speaker positioned toward the user’s ear. The device can also recognize faces and identify products and currency.
- RecallCue – RecallCue is dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with dementia and providing accessibility and reassurance to their families through advanced assistive technologies. RecallCue’s connected digital day-clock platform is designed to allow family members and caregivers to be actively involved in a loved one’s care, even from remote locations. RecallCue promotes meaningful interaction with family members through features such as photo and video sharing.
- CogAid – CogAid develops AI cognitive assistive tools designed to help workers with acquired cognitive impairments (e.g. resulting from a head injury or stroke) to return to work after rehabilitation and remain employed, particularly in knowledge-intensive work environments.
- Ginger Tiger – Ginger Tiger provides an online learning environment specifically designed for users with special needs. The website contains a variety of games and activities designed to teach a variety of subjects and skills. Ginger Tiger is suitable for children with specific learning disabilities, including autism, physical disabilities, deafness or blindness, developmental delays, hearing impairments, speech and language impairments, and visual impairments.
- Wheelshare – WheelShare is a social tech company that develops and uses advanced technological platforms to create a convenient and accessible environment in public areas. The company provides Wheelchair docking stations where anyone in need can rent the equipment 24/7, in a simple and safe manner
- Voiceitt – Voiceitt is a speech recognition technology designed to help people with non-normal speech be independent in today’s technology-filled world and is the only one of its kind. There are two main components to the Voiceitt app. The first is designed to help people with non-standard speech communicate with others. The second is called Voiceitt SDK and helps individuals with non-standard speech connects to Alexa and other home devices.