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Perkins to donate $25k to MassChallenge entrepreneurs who help the disabled

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  February 19, 2013 10:35 AM

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This video outlines the low-cost wheelchair that can also travel on rough terrain, a project by Global Research and Innovation Technology. The company received funds to help the project from the Perkins School for the Blind as part of last year's MassChallenge contest.

The Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown announced that they will again be offering $25,000 in prize money for entrepreneurs entering this year's MassChallenge contest to provide technological solutions for people with disabilities.

MassChallenge, a Boston-based nonprofit that connects local startups with over $1 million in collective funds, has doled out funds and in-kind resources since 2010. The organization also provides winning entrepreneurs with a four-month "accelerator program" that includes mentorship and training, free office space, and access to funding, among other benefits.

The money that the school will donate, formally dubbed the Perkins Assistive Technology Prize, seeks to encourage competitors to develop new low- and high-technology devices that positively impact the quality of life for people with disabilities.

Last year, Perkins funded two companies in the competition: Plen-Optika, a company that has created a low-cost handheld device that prescribes glasses with a click of a button; and Global Research and Innovation Technology, or GRIT, who designed a wheelchair from affordable bicycle parts and offers people with disabilities unparalleled mobility on rough terrain.

"Joining with MassChallenge is a natural for us," said Steven Rothstein, president of Perkins, in an announcement on the school's website. "It's in everyone's interest to urge entrepreneurs to consider accessibility because better access for people with disabilities means better access for all."

Perkins' website states that one-fifth of the US population lives with some type of disability, citing the US Census Bureau. And of the nation's blind adult population, 70 percent are unemployed, mostly due to a lack of sufficient tools to help them overcome their disability in the workplace, according to the school's site.

This year's early bird deadline, which saves candidates $100 off the application fee, is March 6. All other entries must apply by April 3 for a $199 fee. Applicants can also receive $5 off for posting about their MassChallenge application on Twitter and Facebook.

Applications can be found on the MassChallenge website. The organization is also accepting applications for judges, mentors, speakers, sponsors, volunteers, and employees.

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Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com

All applicants receive feedback from expert judges on their online applications, and all 300 semi-finalists receive extended feedback from judges on their in-person pitches, according to the organization.

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