Nipman Foundation awards YouTube channel for the deaf and an app that helps the blind experience films.
New Delhi: A YouTube channel bringing entertainment and awareness for the deaf [Blee TV]. An app that lets the blind experience a movie [XL Cinema]. A firm dedicated to technology that can grant the visually impaired equal access to a confident life [Eye-D]. A café chain run by the differently-abled [Mitti Café].
These are some of the winners honoured Friday at the fifth edition of the Nipman Foundation’s Microsoft Equal Opportunity Awards, an initiative aimed at recognising private players working to bolster employment for the disabled and ensuring them equal accessibility.
Started by the Nipman Foundation in 2014, the Equal Opportunity Awards have become the leading platform to identify champions of the rights of the disabled.
Their growing influence can be gauged from the fact that they received nearly 200 applications for the seven award categories.
The winners this year include BleeTV, Eye-D, XL Cinema in the category of ‘Innovation-Technology’; The Panchkula District Red Cross Society, Mitti Café, White Print (Innovation-Non-Technology); and Mirchi & Mime, and Wipro (Enabler).
In the category of Enabler/Inclusive schools were the Balvantray Mehta Vidya Bhawan Anguridevi Shersingh Memorial Academy, the Shradhanjali Integrated School, the Association of People with Disability, and St Xavier’s College, Mumbai.
The winners in the category of Architects and Design Firms promoting Universal Access Design (UAD) included Access for All and Nature Nurture Architects and Planners.
Lalithkumar Natarajan, a paraplegic who runs an NGO for the differently abled and rode his customised Royal Enfield over 4,000 km from Kanyakumari to Ladakh last year to create awareness for his cause, was among the ‘Individual/Entrepreneur’ awardees. The others included
Shenaz Haveliwala, who has battled epilepsy to become a food entrepreneur and special educator, and Narsappa Vagathali, who used his experience as a leprosy patient to raise awareness about the situation of leprosy colonies.
‘Access not a bonus’
Speaking at the event, union urban affairs minister Hardeep Singh Puri said India was committed to leaving no one behind on its path to development.
“People with disabilities are most marginalised, not because of their disability, but because of an environment that is insensitive, hostile, and inaccessible,” Puri said.
“For the flagship initiatives of my ministry, like AMRUT, HRIDAY, Swachh Bharat and Smart Cities – accessibility cuts across all,” Puri added.
In his address, Puri also praised Nipun Malhotra, the founder of Nipman Foundation, for consistently working for the interests of the disabled community. Malhotra’s ‘Wheels for Life’ programme, which seeks to provide mobility to the disabled, reaches out to nearly 20,000 people across 21 states.
Puri said that making spaces accessible, like adding a ramp in a building, should not be an afterthought or a bonus, but rather a necessary standard like fire clearance. Technology, according to him, has a key role to play in the matter.
“Products that we use – apps, kiosks, signages, captioning – should be accessible for all,” he added.
“For seamless end-to-end accessibility, we need a multi-stakeholder approach, and that is the prime need of the hour,” he said. “All ministries of the government need to come together and collaborate for this.”
His own ministry, the ministry of housing and urban affairs, he said, had a hiring policy that made space for those who were differently-abled.
To read more about the foundation, the awards, and the winners, visit https://www.nipmanfoundation.com/
ThePrint is the digital partner for the Nipman Foundation Equal Opportunity Awards.
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