India Inclusion Fellows 2017-2018. From left to right: Johan Dhinakaran, Dhruv Agrawal, Chandni Rajendran, Aditi Agrawal
Snapshot
  • Swarajya is happy to be a part of the India Inclusion Summit 2018.

The India Inclusion Summit (IIS) is a community-driven initiative that brings together thought leaders from the field of inclusion to deliberate, discuss and take forward the diverse talents present in our society. The summit aspires to create the world’s largest platform that fosters diversity and inclusion.

In 2016, the summit introduced the IIS Fellowship, a first-of-its-kind initiative for people working in the inclusion space. The fellowship promotes upcoming entrepreneurs, artists, policy-makers and anyone making a difference towards promoting inclusion in society.

Four such IIS fellows for the year 2017-2018 are up for an introduction to you here.

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Dhruv Agrawal

Aether Biomedical is a medical device startup focused on using artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics for changing rehabilitation around the globe. Dhruv and his co-founders are currently building Zeus – a bionic limb for upper limb amputees. Zeus is targeted towards the population of developing countries making it the most affordable bionic limb in the market.

They are currently in their beta testing phase for Zeus and the targeted launch date is February 2019.

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As all three of the co-founders (Dhruv, Faith and Nisha) were from the medical fraternity, pursuing MBBS at Safdarjung Hospital, they were intrigued by the possibility of using 3D printing to improve the standard of medical care in the field of rehabilitation while keeping the cost down. Low-cost prosthetics was a pain point that they saw and plunged into solving it.

Their proudest moment has been when they first tested their device with Jatin Nagpal (a person with a hand amputation). That was the big jump which they needed to convince themselves that this could work.

Johan Dhinakaran

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Johan is working as an inclusion leader with The Ganga Trust, an organisation that strives to enhance the quality of lives for people with spinal cord injury. He is a physiotherapist by profession.

Johan also works as a part-time volunteer with The Spinal Foundation, a pan India self-help group for persons with spinal cord injury.

India Inclusion Fellowship had selected Johan while he was working on a project called ‘kNOw Bedsore’, a simple, visual guide aimed at people with spinal cord injury to prevent and manage bedsores – wounds caused by sustained pressure over an area of the body that if left untreated could lead to infections and even death.

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The booklet aimed at bringing out simple but effective day-to-day measures in pictorial content that a person could follow to prevent and manage the occurrence of bedsores.

A highlight during the fellowship was when Senator Tom Harkins – the Senator responsible for passing the Americans Disability Act – commented that “even the United States of America with all its resources does not have a booklet which guides people such as this”.

The booklet of the kNOw Bedsore project is undergoing user trials and will be out for circulation soon.

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Currently, Johan is working on rehabilitating people with disabilities affected by the floods in Kerala. The Kerala floods of August 2018 were one of the most devastating floods in over a century. Many people lost their lives and countless others lost homes and other precious belongings. Wheelchairs used by people with spinal cord injury were completely destroyed by these floods and that left such people immobile and unable to perform simple tasks of daily living. Johan and his team aim to distribute wheelchairs to at least 50 people with disabilities from low socio-economic backgrounds in Kerala.

Knowing that through this wheelchair distribution camp, 50 people with spinal cord injury will be given high-quality wheelchairs that will enable them to lead robust lives after the devastating floods is enough motivation for Johan and his team to continue to do what they do.

Aditi Agrawal

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Aditi Agrawal runs a design studio called Gudgudee that specialises in creating innovative sensory playgrounds for children of all abilities. They go beyond the typical swings and slides to create play areas that integrate the magic of sound, smell, touch and visuals to make the play area not only fun but also inclusive for children with special needs. Gudgudee was started by Anjali Menon and Aditi Agrawal, both industrial design graduates from the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, in 2014.

The journey of Gudgudee started when Anjali and Aditi were students. They used to frequent Blind Peoples’ Association (BPA) for research for one of their design projects. While being a part of the classroom activities of the special school in the campus, they realised that the special needs children at the school had never gone outdoors to play. It came as a shock to both of them knowing that playing, which is an essential part of growing up, is not even experienced by the children with special needs. Talking to their parents revealed that there were two main reasons for this. One, there is a huge social stigma around disability and parents are often not comfortable in public spaces. Secondly, the existing playground equipment was unsafe for use by children with special needs.

That got Aditi and Anjali thinking and they got on to the task of making their first inclusive playground in the campus of BPA. What started out as a small student research initiative became a full-fledged project and even went on to win the coveted iF Concept Design Award in Germany 2014.

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A few years later, Gudgudee was born with a vision to create the most innovative and fun playgrounds for children of all abilities. Since then, Gudgudee has created play spaces in different parts of the country with various real estate builders (like Lodha, Emaar, Godrej, Rustomjee, Raheja etc), schools (Victoria Memorial School, Koala Play School, The Northstar School) and NGOs (Akanksha Foundation, Agastya Foundation). They have created play solutions for challenging spaces like terraces and podiums, and for small indoor spaces as well.

Every finished playground is a proud moment for the Gudgudee team. Nothing beats the exhilarating feeling that one gets to see children of all abilities laughing and enjoying at a newly-created play area. Aditi says that is the biggest reward, every time. Another landmark moment for Gudgudee has been to create a playground design manual in collaboration with the National Institute of Urban Affairs to take the idea of designing play areas beyond the typical swings and slides forward to the new smart cities. The manual aims to help the planners and decision makers think differently and creatively while commissioning play areas in the city. The manual is going to be launched soon. Aditi was recently invited to the Child in the City Conference in Vienna to share her views on designing for child friendly spaces. The conference saw people from 47 countries with diverse set of experiences coming together to discuss child friendly cities for the future.

Chandni Rajendran

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Chandni is working on Tactopus, a startup that creates multi-sensory learning experiences for children with vision loss, to be able to participate in tech-enhanced learning opportunities on an equal footing. The products they design are inclusive and are as engaging and fun for sighted children as they are for those who learn through the sense of touch and sound. Together with her co-founder, Saloni Mehta, she is working on the product release right now. Their app is on the Playstore, and their first set of books are now available on their website, tactopus.com.

When Chandni was pursuing her masters in IDC, IIT Bombay, with a specialisation in human computer interaction design, she did her summer internship with Xaviers' Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged. There, she noticed a serious gap in access and availability of tactile learning material, and also immediately saw how the learning experience could be enhanced by an interactive tech solution. The idea evolved over time, with rapid design-prototype-test cycles and several iterations later, it's now a product that children, parents and teachers are excited by.

Her proudest moment from her current endeavour was fairly early on, when the very first version of the prototype was tested with users. It was a large clunky wooden prototype held together by nails and cello tape, but it had basic interactions in place. The first 12-year-old, who tried it out was so excited that he wanted to take it home with him. He told his mother to buy it for him. Until then, Chandni had just been tinkering around with new interactive media, trying out interesting concepts, but seeing how well children took to it, and how much they needed that kind of playful stimulation, it became a more serious endeavour to build the product and the supporting ecosystem for multi-sensory learning.

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More recently, a 10-year-old with blindness and cerebral palsy was gifted Tactopus’s tactile animal book by her aunt, and Chandni had the opportunity to be there when she first used the book. It was such a happy moment for everybody in her family to see her actually reading picture books by herself.

It's moments like these that keep Chandni and her team going, and remind them that what they are working on is very meaningful to a lot of people.

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