Key2enable is a social enterprise that creates innovative multifunctional tools for digital accessibility which enables learning and communication for people with physical, intellectual, and learning disabilities as well as other health conditions that could challenge people's movement, speech, or comprehension.
This innovation is reaching out for Quality Education, Decent Work and Economic Growth, and Reduced Inequalities.
Aljood Al Nuaimi
The global burden of disease report estimates that 190 million people, which accounts for 3.8% of the world population, live with severe disabilities that challenge their function (Disability and health, 2018). They are not only facing obstacles in the physical world but also in the virtual one. In the past, assistive technologies were large in size, unaffordable to most people, incompatible with most devices, required a lot of training, and were very plain in design. For this reason, Jose Rubinger sought to create Key X, an intelligent mouse, and keyboard that acts as an integrated solution allowing people with disabilities to partake independently, in both the virtual and the real world. It consists of nine colorful buttons that are evenly spread out to make it easier for people with motor disabilities to touch. It does not require any prior installation and it also works with any smart device or a computer. Moreover, pressing the colored buttons combined allow a letter or a number to be entered and, to use the mouse, the user would only need to press a key 3 times. In addition to that, other accessories enable eye-blink dictation technology to give voice to the non-verbal.
In 2009, the co-founder of Key2enable developed a musical keyboard that connects to the computer to teach children Music Theory when he visited an institution for children with disabilities in his hometown in Brazil. As he describes during the interview, “I was unsure if the kids could hear him or understand what I was doing but I was surprised that they were moving and engaging with me”. Shortly after that visit, the co-founder carried out some research about the effects of music on neuroplasticity. He later heard of Gleason, who had created the initial design for “Key-X”.
Gleason was born with cerebral palsy, a condition that limits his muscular abilities. Although Gleason wasn't accepted into a mainstream school, his mother believed in him and enrolled him in a rehabilitation center where he had teachers and therapists who realized his potential. Later, when Greason decided to pursue a career in computer engineering, it took him 10 years to get his Bachelor's Degree because the head pointer required him to ask help from others to conduct certain commands, like a shift. While observing the computer, Gleason came up with the concept of the nine keys that could deliver the same commands as a regular keyboard to allow others like him to have access to devices with less effort and without requiring assistance.
Key2enable aids in achieving the goal of quality education by facilitating and cost-effectively giving access to education, creating an inclusive experience even in places where there are not enough resources to achieve that. And that has been done in Brazil, where Key2enable's tools have helped 4000 disabled students. Since disability has been linked to poverty because it creates multi-level barriers in society, from education to social inclusion to physical barriers, improving digital accessibility for disabled children can have profound impacts on levels of poverty in societies.
There is an additional cost for disability because of acquiring assistive technology, caregiving, and medical equipment (Groce et al., 2011, p. 1497). Key2enable gave financial independence for many; one of them is Samara Nunes, a well-known Brazilian journalist with a disability who used Key-X to publish a memoir. Therefore, contributing to the global development goal of economic empowerment. Not to forget that it also reduces inequality by giving disabled people access to information and the ability to share their thoughts with the world.
Key2enable’s main revenue streams came from direct sales of software and hardware to schools, as well as subscription plans. Additionally, they sell training programs and provide professional services to rehabilitation centers to illustrate the different ways in which the product can be used. The prices of their products and services vary, however, the starting price is $273 and it can go up to $2,723 monthly per school or center. Their products are also available for individual use for people who would like to use it from home. In addition, that package also includes training at affordable prices. Thus, this is more accessible to people with complex health needs and are housebound.
Key2Enable has since moved to Abu Dhabi, UAE, to build the business and expand to a larger world market. Since then, they have won two major competitions in the UAE. The first one is Krypto Labs, an Abu Dhabi innovation hub that awarded Key2enable $150,000 in 2018 (The National, 2020). The second competition was at the GITEX Future Stars, a technology competition where they were awarded $50,000 in 2019.
Around 320 schools and 35 rehabilitation centers got the training and have implemented educational platforms that Key2enable provides. Users like Joulia, who are unable to communicate verbally and have a motor disorder, are now fully integrated with their classmates. She became an ambassador for NASA science days in Brazil. John Doe, a child that felt isolated from the world, was able to write a story about a young disabled superhero using the Key2enable device. That being said, this goes beyond academic achievements; the device can also be used for gaming, allowing users to form meaningful social relationships that are crucial for their development and exercising their right to entertainment.
Integration benefits everyone. It teaches children diversity as well as compassion. Those kids may interact with the world differently, but are as curious as everyone, or even more, to explore the world. And when they grow up, they will be less biased about disability. Older people with conditions like Multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, ALS, and stroke survivors can also use these devices to access the internet. Moreover, caregivers, special educators, and medical professionals can hear disabled people's experiences using their own words. Thus, learning about their needs to try and help them in more innovative, efficient, and practical ways as possible. Parents can learn about their kids’ inner worlds and can support them when they need it. The platform can potentially facilitate the creation of social support systems of users, educators, caregivers, and families that aim to empower everybody.
Jose Rubinger, Founder
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Abudhabi, Abudhabi, AE
Business Website: https://key2enable.com
Year Founded: 2018
Number of Employees: 2 to 10
Key2enable is a company that creates innovative multifunctional tools for digital accessibility, which enables learning and communication for people with physical, intellectual, and learning disabilities as well as other health conditions that challenge their movement, speech, or comprehension.