The latest World Health Organisation figures revealed there are about two billion disabled people in the world, which is 37.5 per cent of the world’s population. Twenty per cent of that two billion live with great functional difficulties in their daily lives. There are a number of assistive technologies for people who are temporarily or permanently disabled in the market, which is currently estimated to be at $21 billion. It is expected to reach $31.5 billion by 2027, according to data from Re
Research and Markets. Here, three startups show us how their products support people with disabilities. Handi Founders: Andrew Gurza and Heather Morrison Location: Australia Launch date: May 2020 Category: A startup that sells sex toys for people with disabilities Here’s what you need to know: Since the pandemic hit and social distancing restrictions were put in place, the global sex industry and adult novelty companies have seen a massive growth in sales. Sustained growth is expected in this area as people continue to remain at home, says Heather Morrison, CEO and co-founder of Handi, which sells adult toys for people with disabilities. “This is particularly relevant for our core target market as the disabled community are among the most vulnerable during this period. They can no longer rely on outside help like dating or seeking sex workers for pleasure,” Morrison told Inside Retail. “Handi is on a mission to put sexual pleasure within reach for everyone… starting with the disabled community.” Handi, which was launched last May, is currently creating its first line of sex toys for disabled people, which can also be “enjoyed by all”. The business has also just published its book The Handi Book of Love, Lust and Disability. Its first toy, the Handi Joystick, will be out in the market in early 2021. According to Morrison, the first half of the year has been “a wild ride” on all fronts as the pandemic forced the co-founders to reevaluate how, when and where they could conduct product testing and development. “We also kicked off an intensive accelerator program called Remarkable Tech in March, which forced us to look for ways to sprint forward while the rest of the world was at a stand-still,” she explains. “Our plans today are the same as they were pre-Covid, with a more intense need to get products to market to fill the pleasure and human rights gap experienced by the disabled community.” At the moment, the team is still in the process of pre-selling direct to consumers through the Handi website. It also plans to expand its product range to a full line of accessible sex toys, accessible lingerie, sex+disability literature and educational material and services. “Handi is a brand with a strong mission and meaning,” Morrison says. “The World Health Organisation defines sexual pleasure as a human right, but it’s out of reach for hundreds of millions of people. As you can imagine, people are frustrated and want innovation and conversation on the topic.” According to Morrison, the business plans to take their products on a global platform as part of its mission to put pleasure within reach for everyone, especially people with disabilities. Eric Ju Yoon Kim and Titus Cheng Dot Incorporation Founders: Eric Ju Yoon Kim, Ki Kwang Sung and Titus Cheng Location: South Korea Launch date: April 2015 Category: A startup that sells smartwatches and other wearables for the blind Here’s what you need to know: After developing its Braille Dot smartwatch, a device that allows blind and visually impaired users to receive and read text messages, Dot Incorporation launched a new product called Dot Mini, an e-book Braille reader. The smart media device can connect to computers and mobile devices via USB and Bluetooth, allowing people to access e-books and audio. “It can access any digital text from any source or medium because the innovative translation engine uses AI to understand context and translate it efficiently to Braille,” explains co-founder Eric Ju Yoon Kim. Dot’s vision is to create a variety of interactive low-cost devices to make information more easily accessible for the blind and visually impaired. According to Kim, in developing countries in particular, disconnection to the world of information is a big problem. “The world has been undergoing rapid digital transformation through IoT, 5G, Big Data, and AI technologies. However, ironically, such technological advances do not guarantee equal opportunities for all people,” he explains. “Rather, it is depriving people with disabilities of the chance to access places and information.” Choi Ah-rum, Dot marketing director, says the firm looks like a hardware company on the surface but it has built a software ecosystem, where users are seamlessly connected through its products like the Dot Watch, Dot Mini and Dot Pad. In the future, the company also plans to launch a subscription model, like Amazon Kindle and Netflix. Dot may have successfully created devices that translate everyday language to Braille, but the materials that require complex text and diagrams still have not been developed. At the moment, the business is trying to develop a tablet device that can display multi-line text, graphs and shapes. Camil Moldoveanu Re.flex Founders: Camil Moldoveanu and Andrei Kluger Location: Romania Launch date: 2016 Category: A startup that creates motion-tracking wearables to help people during therapy. Here’s what you need to know: The concept of Re.flex was started when co-founder Camil Moldoveanu, a four-time world champion in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, won the European title in 2015, where he injured his right knee and only did four weeks of recovery instead of eight. His injury got worse after a few days, however, and he underwent surgery followed by a six-month recovery period. Unfortunately, 70 per cent of people fail to complete their recovery period after an injury, prematurely ending it when their pain seems to have gone, says Moldoveanu. Often, they choose to exercise at home, which sometimes leads to a re-injury and in some cases, further surgery. That inspired Moldoveanu to use technology to ease the recovery process for patients. Re.flex’s technology-movement detection wearable helps guide patients during the last stages of physiotherapy sessions, helping them to effectively and safely exercise from home. The technology comprises a set of smart sensors that analyse the patient’s moves; a mobile app which gives feedback on the exercises that were performed; a medical platform that connects patients with doctors to monitor the progress, and how-to exercise videos. The device can track up to 20 parameters of the knee and hip movement like flexion, extension, rotation of the shin, speed, acceleration, abduction or adduction. “It is our aim to make physiotherapy measurable,” Moldoveanu explains. He adds that physiotherapists who have tried Re.flex have been amazed by how well the device works and how easy it is for their patients to use.