Google's Open Call to Nonprofits Gives $20 Million for AT: "Transformative Tech: Disabilities"

Citing the experience of a one of its employees with a visual disability who found independence from people reading aloud to her—everything from schoolwork to menus—as a result of assistive technology, Google announced its Impact Challenge program on May 26.

Transformative Technology  Her story of moving from human readers to a combination of screen-readers and magnification software is also a story about employment. Today, Laura Palmaro is a program manager at Google who helps Chrome and Chrome OS teams make their products more accessible. The company's new initiative, based in part on her accomplishment, is designed to transform lives for many others leading to lives that are fulfilling and productive.  

Its Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities program puts up $20 million in grants for nonprofits using emerging technologies to increase independence. Google's open call seeks to identify new areas of opportunity at

The Kick Off  Two organizations with efforts that "could be transformative for millions of people" are the first recipients. Both solutions are deemed cost efficient. They are described in a press release this way:

  • The Enable community connects people who want prosthetics with volunteers who use 3D printers to design, print, assemble, and fit them, for free. This dramatically cuts costs, increases speed of distribution, and meets unmet needs. We’ll support the Enable Community Foundation's efforts with a $600,000 grant to advance the design, distribution and delivery of open-source 3D-printed upper-limb prosthetics.
  • Diagnosing auditory challenges can be a struggle in low-income communities—the equipment is expensive, bulky and unrealistic, particularly in the developing world. With our support, and a $500,000 grant, World Wide Hearing will develop, prototype and test an extremely low cost tool kit for hearing loss using smartphone technology that’s widely available—and affordable—in the developing world.

"The Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities will seek out nonprofits and help them find new solutions to some serious “what ifs” for the disabled community. We will choose the best of these ideas and help them to scale by investing in their vision, by rallying our people and by mobilizing our resources in support of their missions," Google said. 

AIM-VA  Supporting students with disabilities includes providing accessible versions of text when learners have a print disability. These learning materials are available at no cost when students are found eligible under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and an exception to federal copyright law. Eligibility occurs at a student's Individualized Education Program (IEP) planning meeting. There, the educational team can consider and select alternatives to print, or AEM, in order to help a student access text. With the right format, a struggling student with a print disability is more likely to stay on grade, meet learning goals, and master the state standards of learning. For information in Virginia, log onto the AIM-VA homepage. The accessible educational materials (AEM) program operates nationwide, so ask a special education teacher in your state or a school administrator about AEM under the IDEA. 


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June Behrmann

Follow our blog to learn more about accessible materials and how to use them successfully with students who have reading disabilities in Virginia.

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