According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 15% of people worldwide, roughly 1 billion, live with a disability. An estimated 80% of those living with disabilities reside in developing countries where lack of accessibility serves as a barrier for getting through everyday life. Moreover, these physical obstacles can lead to both social and cultural hardships. Luckily, Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM) is attempting to provide aid to disabled and low-income people.
While having a disability in itself can pose a challenge to individuals, there are other adversities as well. In developing countries, 90% of children with disabilities are not in school. In addition, women with disabilities often experience much higher rates of violence and abuse than women without impediments.
A 2004 study focused on girls and women with disabilities in India and showed that almost all had experienced physical abuse in their homes. Furthermore, 25% had experienced rape and 6% had undergone sterilization against their will. The fact that a mere 45 countries, primarily developed ones, have anti-discrimination and disability-specific laws has only made this reality worse. However, growing global movements have set out to change this status quo directed at the needs of minority communities.
Bringing New Technology to Age-Old Challenges
Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM) is a global movement based out of Israel dedicated to seeking affordable solutions for individuals living with disabilities in lower-income communities. TOM recognizes the power of technology and views it as a tool to help all people achieve access to affordable solutions for their disabilities. Tikkun Olam Makers has instituted 605 projects and delivered more than 213,000 products since its start in 2014. Tikkun Olam Makers addresses the needs of minority communities through a multi-step process:
- Establish or Join a Community: The first stage is joining a community or establishing one if none exist in one’s surrounding area.
- Challenge: Once a community has undergone creation, individuals work to identify what TOM terms ‘Neglected Challenges’– specific needs of minority communities for which affordable market solutions do not yet exist. In tandem with identifying these challenges, communities pair up with ‘Need-Knowers’– people with specific understandings of these challenges.
- Prototyping: The next step is creating a prototype solution to the posed challenge. The ‘Makers’ of these issues can include anyone involved in collaborating on the solution design.
- Productizing: Once a prototype receives approval, groups proceed to productizing — the process of turning the digital prototype into a physical product. This step also includes the digital documentation and product transfer to the Tikkun Olam Makers website.
- Disseminating: Products undergo distribution to final end-users once completed. This distribution takes place via local ‘maker spaces’ that exist in a variety of academic institutions, community centers, large companies and more.
Tikkun Olam Makers Captures Global Attention
TOM’s work has reached thousands of people in need. In November 2021, the organization took part in its first Global Innovation Challenge in Dubai. The organization presented its disability solutions alongside 50 others from more than 15 countries. Three teams from Tikkun Olam Makers received grand prizes for their innovations. One of these included the Talker Mount, a mechanism for individuals with cerebral palsy to communicate independently via a tablet. In addition, one other group from TOM also received an honorable mention.
As another year approaches, Tikkun Olam Makers intends to continue creating solutions for those with disabilities. Through support from people across the globe and strong investments in a better future, Tikkun Olam Makers is paving the way for such inventions to become normalized necessities.
– Chloé D’Hers