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Perkins School Offers Prize for Innovations to Help Disabled

Posted on Mar 08, 2013

Technology brought us online ESL translation services, braille e-books, hearing aids, robotic arms, and speaking devices that work with eye movements. Are there more ways that technology can be used to help people overcome the limitations of their disabilities? One local school is hoping to help local inventors find these solutions.

The Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown is joining this year’s MassChallenge contest. The school announced that it will be once again be offering $25,000 in prize money for technological solutions for people with disabilities.

MassChallenge is a Boston-based nonprofit that provides local entrepreneurs with mentoring, office space, and access to funding. Since 2010, MassChallenge has provided more than $1 million in collective funds to annual prize winners. The Perkins School will be sponsoring the Perkins Assistive Technology Prize for technology devices that improve the quality of life for people with disabilities.

This is the second year that the Perkins Assistive Technology Prize will be awarded. Last year, the prize funded two local companies:  

  • Plen-Optika:  Plen-Optika developed a low-cost, handheld device that can quickly prescribe glasses. 
  • Global Research and Innovation Technology (GRIT):  The company designed a wheelchair made from affordable bicycle parts that provides improved mobility on rough terrain.

Nearly one-fifth of Americans are disabled. People with disabilities have a higher unemployment rate than the non-disabled. Although disabled Americans may qualify for Social Security disability benefits, they most desire the satisfaction of work. There is a high need for innovations that help improve accessibility in the workplace.

Although it is too late for this year's early-bird deadline, applicants may still apply for this year’s prize until April 3. The organization is also seeking judges for this year’s contest. Applications and rules can be found on the MassChallenge website. 

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John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney of Keefe Disability Law