There are one billion people around the world who live with some form of physical or developmental disability. Google has promised a massive $20 million in donations to nonprofits that are aimed at using emerging technology to help those people.
The new initiative, called the Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities program, is being launched with a call for other organizations to help and identify new ways to help the disabled.
"At Google, we are committed to making accessibility a core consideration for our products," said the company on its website. "We're also working closely with teams of innovators, technologists and people with disabilities who are experimenting with unconventional solutions that can change the quality of life for millions."
The company itself is kicking off the program by donating to two startups. The first is called Enable, which essentially connects those who need prosthetic arms with volunteers who own 3D printers and are able to design and assemble prosthetics for free. Google will be giving $600,000 to Enable.
The second organization that Google will be supporting is called World Wide Hearing, which develops low-cost kits that use smartphone technology for those suffering from hearing loss. Google is giving $500,000 to World Wide Hearing.
"Each of these organizations is using technology to dramatically reduce the cost of and access to prosthetic limbs and auditory therapy, respectively, which could be transformative for hundreds of millions of people," continued Google.
Of course, these two companies are just the beginning of Google's initiative. The company will still give $18.9 million to other, similar organizations around the world.
Even members of the general public can participate in the initiative. People are encouraged to submit "what if" questions, which are basically suggestions for what kinds of accessibility problems should be solved. Startups and organizations are also invited to respond to Google's open call, and the company will be accepting all kinds of ideas until September 30, 2015.
This isn't the first time that Google has started initiatives to help the disabled. Google X, Google's experimental lab, acquired Lift Labs last year, a company that has developed a spoon that automatically compensates for those shaking from Parkinson's disease. The spoon uses a vibrating motor to counter tremors, making it easier for people with Parkinson's to eat.
Only time will tell what kind of organizations Google helps and what kind of an effect that company will have on those suffering disabilities. If you have any ideas, be sure to suggest them to Google.