By Kevin Howell

One billion people—about 15% of the world’s population—experience a disability. Disabilities are even more prevalent in developing countries.

Disabled people in both developed and developing nations on average have less education, higher unemployment rates, worse living conditions, and higher poverty rates.

According to the World Bank, the disabled face unique barriers to advancement, such as lack of transportation, inaccessible buildings, less access to communication technology, and inadequate services.

Technology has played a large role in alleviating some of these difficulties. Here are some ways engineers are helping the disabled around the world.


Binocular dysfunction is a condition in which the eyes are unable to align properly. Children who suffer from this condition experience blurred or double vision and have difficulty concentrating, and it often affects their learning ability.

A team of biomedical engineering students in New Jersey along with two high school students are working to reduce the impact of the condition. With the help of an EPICS in IEEE grant, the group is collaborating with The Eye Institute to develop a home-based device for vision therapy.

People with binocular dysfunction often have to undergo vision therapy at a physician’s office, which can cost up to $5,000. The home-based device will be a more convenient and affordable alternative.


There are more than 10 million wheelchair users in developed nations. In developing nations, only 5-15% of people who need wheelchairs have them.

IEEE members in India are working to improve the mobility of the nation’s disabled. Working with students in a local secondary school, the members are designing and building an automated wheelchair.

The wheelchair will allow users to activate it using a switch and joystick, and it will also easily convert the chair into a bed. It will give users greater mobility and reduce the need for caregivers to transfer wheelchair users to their beds.


In Malaysia, non-government organizations noticed there was a lack of affordable and accessible physical rehabilitation systems for children with movement disorders such as Cerebral Palsy since most centers in the country were designed for adults.

IEEE members in the nation partnered with local NGOs to design and develop an affordable system. Using an EPICS grant, the engineers created a hand-cycle system for physical rehabilitation. The system includes smart features that allow therapists to monitor speed and force, as well as an animation display to encourage movement for the children.

While disabilities put people at a disadvantage, they can still function and thrive in society with assistance. Engineers are making sure that happens in both developed and developing nations.

Do you have the heart to help improve the lives of people with disabilities? Put your innovative skills to work through an EPICS in IEEE project. Learn how to submit a proposal for a project to get funding.