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Start-up Nation takes on disabilities

Israeli technology is about more than mobiles and networking; it can also bring new abilities to the disabled

JTA — Voiceitt, an Israeli start-up developing voice-translation technology for people with disabilities, was named recently the audience favorite at a Wall Street Journal-sponsored international technology conference.

The company’s new app, called Talkitt, converts the utterances of people with various speech disabilities into more easily understandable elocution. It is slated for release in the middle of 2015.

But Talkitt is hardly the only Israeli tech innovation for people with disabilities. Last year, three Israeli organizations – PresenTense, Beit Issie Shapiro and the Ruderman Family Foundation – teamed to launch what they say is the world’s first “accelerator” focused on addressing the needs of people with disabilities. Called AI3, for Accelerating Inclusion in Israel, the Raanana-based program has enrolled 15 start-up initiatives, such as Sesame Enable, which has created a smartphone that can be controlled with facial and head movements instead of touch for those who are unable to use their hands.

Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation – which has been a leader in promoting inclusion in the American Jewish community and Israel – praised Israel’s tech sector for developing solutions that “help people with disabilities and enable them to become part of society.”

However, he said, the Start-up Nation’s government is lagging behind on the disabilities front.

“What it supports is antiquated in terms of housing, employment and the right legislation,” Ruderman said, adding that while “the tech sector’s way ahead in Israel,” its inventions don’t “trickle down to everyone.”

“I’m not sure it’s helping the average person with disabilities yet,” he said.

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