Today is International Women’s Day!
International Women’s Day is a “global day celebrating the social economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action accelerating gender parity. Significant activity is witnessed worldwide as groups come together to celebrate women’s achievements or rally for women’s equality.” (International Women’s Day, 2021)
Women make up as much as 70% of the healthcare workforce. Overwhelmingly, women clinicians prescribe and provide the assistive devices and technologies used by patients, however there are very few women-led companies that create them. While we have a long way to go to reach gender parity, we want to take this International Women’s Day to celebrate a few of the amazing women-led companies currently producing innovative and intuitive products designed to make life easier and more enjoyable for people living with disabilities. Read on to learn about 6 women-led companies changing the disability world.
1. Braze Mobility
Dr. Pooja Viswanathan is the Co-Founder and CEO of Braze Mobility. Braze Mobility created the world’s first patent-pending universal blind spot sensors that transform any wheelchair into a “smart wheelchair”. The system provides multi-modal alerts (lights, sounds and vibrations) to the user regarding location and proximity of obstacles. The easy to mount and fully customizable Braze Sentina attaches to any wheelchair and provides 180 degrees of rear-view blind spot coverage. It is recommended for any wheelchair user who wants a greater awareness of obstacles in the rear of the wheelchair. The system provides people using wheelchairs the ability and confidence to navigate smaller and more crowded places and spaces.
The Braze Sentina can attach to any wheelchair and provides 180 degrees of rear-view blind spot coverage! The Sentina is easy to mount, and is fully customizable. This system is recommended for clients who want a greater awareness of obstacles in the rear of the wheelchair. (Note: the system can potentially be set up for increased coverage around the front of the wheelchair in certain cases – please contact Braze Mobility customer support for alternative mounting recommendations).
Hadeel Ayoub is the Founder, CTO and research and development lead of BrightSign. BrightSign’s flagship product is the BrightSign Glove, a smart glove that can translate any sign language into any spoken language instantly. The glove uses voice recognition technology to allow the user read or see the other side of the conversation through an app on their phone. The BrightSign Glove communicates through your mobile device but also comes with a wearable speaker. The user has access to a range of voices and accents, so they can customize the sound of their speech . The glove comes in two sizes with both a right and left handed version. BrightSign Glove allows users with hearing or speech disabilities to clearly and easily communicate with others at home and out in the community.
Current technology to allow people with hearing or speech disabilities to communicate just isn’t good enough and doesn’t fit many of their needs. That’s why we have put so much time and effort into making BrightSign as customisable and flexible as possible.
3. Walk with Path
Lisa Pape is the Founder and Managing Director of Walk with Path. Walk with Path develops walking aids for people with disabilities. Currently, they have Path Finder a shoe-mounted walking aid specifically designed for people with Parkinson’s. It is a laser guidance system meant to cue the brain to initiate walking when experiencing freezing of gait (FOG) or “freezing”, a difficulty often experienced by people with Parkinson’s disease. This product provides a safety net for individuals who experience freezing and can give users confidence to access the community independently. Coming soon is Path Feel a vibrating insole walking aid for people with sensory deficit. It provides vibrational feedback to the soles of people at risk of falls due to peripheral neuropathy, general sensory deficit or those with general balance issues. By amplifying the feeling of the ground beneath their feet, users can better know when their feet are in contact with the ground, reducing the sense of imbalance and the falls that occur because of that.
Many people who live with Parkinson’s disease experience difficulties walking. This experience is called freezing of gait (FOG) or freezing. Path Finder is a medical device that alleviates freezing.
4. Proximity Care
Natalie Price is the CEO of Proximity Care. The Proximity Care Button is a wearable wandering device that alerts dementia carers to wandering. Unlike other alert systems that require expensive technology, a satellite signal or subscription; the Proximity Care Button is a simple, discreet device that connects to your phone via bluetooth. It can be used in any environment and has a battery life of approximately 6 months, so no need to charge each day. The Proximity Button provides peace of mind to carers while being less intrusive than other “tracking systems” for people living with dementia.
A wearable warning device that alerts dementia carers to wandering. The Proximity Button is worn by the person in your care. It connects to your phone via Bluetooth and alerts you if they wander too far. Distance is approx 20 metres.
Maria Molland is the CEO and a member of the board of directors at Thinx. Thinx designs underwear that absorbs your period. While perhaps not traditionally thought of as an assistive device, period-proof underpants can be life changing for people living with disabilities. Their most absorptive underwear designs, like the Super Hiphugger can hold up to 5 tampons worth of period blood. They also have Speax a line of incontinence underwear that holds up to 8 tsps of liquid. For people with limited or no ability to use or change hygiene products, these underwear can be game changing. Before period- and pee-proof underpants, individuals would either have to wear adult diapers or rely on caregivers to help them with hygiene products. Thinx brings independence and much needed dignity to period and incontinence management for individuals living with disabilities.
Elastic leg openings for a comfortable fit that retains its shape after washing. Tag-free. Our underwear has been successfully tested for harmful substances and certified according to STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX®️ [20.HUS.04850 | HOHENSTEIN HTTI]
6. Assistive Technology Clinic
Pearl Gryfe is the Founder and Clinical and Managing Director of the Assistive Technology Clinic (ATC). The ATC is an award-winning and industry-leading model of patient care. At two clinic sites located in Toronto, skilled inter-professional teams provide interventions in the areas of specialized medicine and rehabilitation, spasticity management, gait and balance, seating and mobility, augmentative and alternative communication, computer aids, wearable robotics and environmental controls. Pearl created the ATC in 1994 and over 25 years has grown the clinic into an industry leader in combining innovative medical and neurological rehabilitation therapy programs with cutting-edge technologies for customized patient care. The highly specialized interprofessional teams comprised of physicians, nurses, occupational therapists and physical therapists, speech language pathologists, dieticians, therapy support staff, social services, biomedical engineers and computer technologists help over 4000 patients each year referred to them from all across Canada. Informed by her vision to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities by intertwining rehabilitation and technology, Pearl’s work has garnered multiple research studies, publications and innovation awards including ICRF Inspirational Woman of the Year Award in 2018. Throughout it all, Pearl’s focus remains on finding and developing the most impactful technologies through research and development projects and hands-on patient care. As a clinician, entrepreneur, researcher, and innovator, Pearl epitomizes the strong women leadership we strive to inspire.
These are just 5 of the many women-led companies that are making waves in the disability world. We hope that by highlighting some of the life-changing products these amazing women are responsible for sharing with the world, we inspire more women to rise through the ranks or blaze a trail to the top of companies all across the healthcare industry.
Happy International Women’s Day!
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