A blind man and his business partner are looking to champion life-changing technologies that are helping disabled people in the UK live their lives.
Through their charity, AbilityNet, visually impaired entrepreneur Robin Christopherson and his co-founder Mark Walker, are scouring UK charities, businesses and individuals worthy of one of the seven Tech4Good Awards on offer.
The awards, now in their fourth year and backed by the likes of BT and Microsoft, include categories for technologies transforming communities and technologies helping people adjust to the digital age.
Christopherson, who has a guide dog but is becoming increasingly dependent on Apple’s voice recognition software, Siri, to get around, said the awards are all about championing a broad range of technologies that support disabled people.
“For disabled people, technology is like night and day. It’s the difference between opportunities, in many cases on the same level as other people, versus no opportunities and limited options.”
He added that he is particularly excited about Google Glass and the onset of wearables, pointing to Glass' potential to bring up real-time subtitles for a deaf person or interpret a person's facial expression for someone suffering with aspergers – a task they may struggle with in everyday life.
Previous Tech4Good award winners include MyHomeHelper, an information system that helps someone with severe cognitive disabilities or dementia to keep up to date with news, photos, video calls and reminders, and Global Autocorrect, a piece of software built by 26-year-old dyslexic graduate, Neil Cottrell, which aims to help people with dyslexia to work more effectively.
Since winning Tech4Good’s Accessibility Award, Cottrell has been able to access BT’s customer network and grow his team from two to 11, according to Walker.
While AbilityNet does not currently offer any cash prizes, winners do receive mentoring from the competition's partners and access to their networks. One previous winner is said to have valued the existing winner's package at around £100,000 per year.
Walker revealed that he is in talks with a number of the Tech4Good partners about raising a cash prize for future awards.
Nominations are open until 6 May and the winners will be announced at an awwards ceremony on 10 July.