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Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities - two Canadian organizations among global winners



Last spring, Google.org kicked off the Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities, an open call to global non-profits who are building transformative technologies for the billion people around the world with disabilities. We’re thrilled to announce that two Canadian firms are among the winners of that global challenge.

There are one billion people living with disabilities around the world. That’s one billion people that society isn’t engineered to serve. In all, Google.org has awarded $20M today in grants to a wide range of non-profits around the world. The winners were selected from more than 1,000 submissions from 88 different countries around the world.

The organizations we’re supporting all have big ideas for how technology can help create new solutions, and each of their ideas has the potential to scale. Each organization has also committed to speeding up innovation in a sector that has historically been siloed.


Last year, to kick off the challenge in Canada, we supported World Wide Hearing with a grant of $500,000 to help them develop, prototype and test an extremely low cost tool kit for identifying hearing loss using smartphone technology that’s widely available--and affordable--in the developing world.

Today we’re proud to introduce our two new Canadian grantees - Nia Technologies and Neil Squire Society.

You can learn more about all 30 organizations working to improve mobility, communication, and independence for people living with disabilities at g.co/disabilities.

Nia Technologies (awarded a $400,000 grant)

Based in Toronto, Nia Technologies uses 3D scanning, modelling, and printing technologies to develop better fitting prosthetics for people in developing countries. Funding from Google.org will also enable Nia to create an open source digital platform for the global community of orthopaedic technologists. Up to 95% of the people in developing countries who need assistive devices are unable to access them. Obstacles to access include a shortage of orthopaedic personnel, labour‐intensive production methods, and significant costs to patients, especially those who have to travel vast distances for treatment. Early testing indicates that 3D PrintAbility produces robust prosthetic devices in less time than similar  devices produced with current manual methods. Nia aims to cut production times from an average of 5 days to as little as 1.5 days. Nia is testing 3D PrintAbility with clinical trials in Uganda and other developing countries in 2016.

Neil Squire Society (awarded a $800,000 grant)

How would you use a touch screen mobile device, if you could not use your hands to touch the device? The Neil Squire Society will use its grant from Google.org to release the LipSync, a mouth controlled input device enabling people with disabilities to operate a mobile device.

An estimated 1,000,000 people in Canada and US have limited or no use of their arms—meaning they’re unable to use touchscreen devices that could provide access to helpful apps and services. While solutions exist for desktop computers, they can cost up to $3,000 and do not work well on mobile devices. The LipSync designs will be released open source so that makers can affordably make the solution so that anyone with difficulty using their hands can operate a mobile device using a mouth-operated input controller.

The Neil Squire Society is a Vancouver-based non-profit that was founded by Bill Cameron, who designed a “sip-and-puff” communication for his relative Neil Squire, who was paralyzed from the neck down following a car accident.