Techno-Blind: Artificial light for those who lost their light
November 20, 2022
Adam is a young 19-year-old man from Homs, in western Syria. His mother was his backbone that helped him navigate his way through life. Last year, his mother passed away, and he became reclusive. His friends immediately noticed his absence and tried to be there for him, but soon after his online presence dwindled, and he succumbed to depression and isolation. Adam is visually impaired.
Driven by their empathy and concern for their neighbourhood friend, when hearing about the opportunity presented by Generation Unlimited, implemented jointly by UNICEF and UNDP, Ali, Jollanar, Sandy and Bilal from Homs got together and formed the Techno-Blind team.
Ali is a 24 year old Automation and Computer Engineering student; Sandy, 21 years old, is an Information Technology and Business Administration student; Bilal, 24 years old, is Pharmacy student; Jollanar, 21 years old, is an English Literature and Interactive Media student.
In a country ravaged by 11 years of war and conflict, around 28% of the population lives with some form of disability, 13% of which are visually impaired*.
“I always dreamed of making a difference in our society. Being a girl in a male-dominated sector is not easy. I was in a state of frustration when I heard about this opportunity, and here I am, taking the first step towards my dream.” said Sandy
Together, they came up with ‘Project Echo’ to support people with visual impairment and enhance their independence and quality of life. Their first product is a smart cane that offers several features. ‘Lead me Safely’ detects horizontal obstacles and pits. It alerts the user through vibration or an alarm. ‘Great Beholder’ is a smart voice navigation system, where with a click of a button, the system can identify the user’s location and with a longer press, the user can pick out a destination via voice command and the relevant instructions are given through the cane. ‘Tell me What’ is a sensor that recognizes the different paper money notes. With ‘Smart SOS’ the cane gives a siren if dropped for 10 seconds so that the user can locate it. In case it is not picked up for longer, the cane sends an SMS to a pre-set emergency contact number. The cane is made of paper-based carbon fibre, so ‘Project Echo’ is eco-friendly!
“I was always curious about how things work and how I can develop them. This competition was a great opportunity for me to put my skills to use to help others,” said Ali.
The price of ‘Echo’ cane is eight times less than other similar products in the global market, making it more accessible for people in need. The team is working on several other features that they hope will be included in future versions. The team dreams of a future where persons with disabilities have equal opportunities in life.
“Equality is a God-given right, and discrimination is human-made. We will work together, hand in hand, to achieve equality first in our community and hopefully all over the world,” said Jollanar.
When asked what they would request of today's world leaders, the answer was to help create a brighter future for their generation. All four of them pleaded for peace and for lifting the restrictions facing Syrian youth’s access to learning opportunities.
“There is no limit to the ambition of youth in Syria when given the trust and opportunity. We hope to be an inspiration for others and the voice of change for a better future for all,” concluded Bilal.
Written by Asma’ Nashawati, Communications Associate, UNDP Syria