India Rises as Manufacturing Hub for Assistive Devices: Rajesh Aggarwal

New Delhi, 10th July 2024: Addressing issues and challenges to strengthen the ecosystem for Person with Disabilities at the ASSOCHAM’s 6th Conference on Empowering Persons with Disabilities through Accessible & Assistive Technology, Chief Guest Mr. Rajesh Aggarwal IAS, Secretary, Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice, and Empowerment, GoI stressed on calling it diversity rather than disability with the nature of humanity. He talked about 3 prevalent issues that are accessible infrastructure, employment opportunities and education to people with disabilities.

He motivated the audience to not help PWD with charity purposes but include them with designated job profiles and not quota. For enhancing education, he gave examples of use of devices such as braille displays, speech-to-text software, and adapted learning tools to facilitate learning. Providing necessary workplace accommodations such as ergonomic chairs, specialized keyboards, and software solutions to support productivity, he added.

Focused on the theme ‘Innovation and Sustainable Solutions for Equal Opportunities,’ he shared this event aims to empower Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) and foster a more inclusive ecosystem. This conference aligns with the vision of Viksit Bharat, aspiring to position India as a Global AT Hub. Driven by competitive manufacturing costs, supporting government policies like Make in India , India can position itself as a key player in the global market.

Mr Anil Rajput, Chairperson of the ASSOCHAM National CSR Council said “According to the WHO, 16% of the world’s population, which is over a billion people have some form of disability, and 80% of these live in the developing countries, with mobility being a critical factor in the lives of PwDs- in this context, l appeal to the automobile manufacturers in India to bring in the latest technologies in vehicles for disabled people that are being used in different parts of the world- this could have a transformational impact in the lives of persons with disabilities in India. I also urge the media to not only focus on the challenges faced by the PwDs, but also showcase their success stories, this will inspire many more to excel, as well as bring forth their unique abilities before the larger audience”.

Mr. Amit Singh, Partner, EY stressed on collaboration among government and private sector to create sustainable solutions for civil society and reducing barriers to participation. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing the field of emerging technologies by augmenting assistive devices’ capabilities, personalizing experiences, and boosting accessibility. The country has a significant portion of its population that have disabilities that require immediate attention and solutions.

Dr. Sara Varughese, Managing Trustee, CBM India shared that disability in India is a pressing issue that calls for concerted effort to build socially inclusive and universally accessible infrastructure. Social stigma and discrimination are the issues that are still faced in India leading to economic vulnerability.

Mr. Dipendra Manocha, President, DAISY Forum of India highlighted the government policies that can encourage the mass production of assistive devices through subsidies, tax incentives and grants for research and development. Such interventions can reduce production costs, increase supply and foster innovation ensuring the availability to a larger population at lower prices.

The event was concluded with a vote of thanks by Mr. Ravi Bhatnagar, Co-Chairperson of the ASSOCHAM National CSR & Empowerment Councils and Director of External Affairs & Partnerships, South Asia, Reckitt. He stated that resources should be made more accessible to people in rural India as well, and he discussed how corporations can support an inclusive structure for the disabled workforce.