BENGALURU: They lost their eyesight in their prime, but that did not deter the two city-based brothers from providing their ilk with an unobstructed view of their ‘rights’. Meet 33-year-old Ankit Rajiv Jindal and 32-year-old Pratik Jindal who have come up with an AI-powered chatbot on disability rights in India.
The chatbot, titled Mera Mitra, has been described by the duo as India’s personal companion for everything on disability, especially the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 that not many are aware of. It is currently available on devices with Google Assistant and Facebook Messenger.
“Information on disability rights is very limited in India. We strongly feel information imparted on it will be the stepping stone for disability empowerment,” said the two brothers, who lost their eyesight owing to retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disorder resulting in loss of vision. While Ankit works as a marketing specialist with an MNC, Pratik is an HR professional with a tech giant. The duo also started a social startup called Friends for Inclusion, which creates solutions using cognitive computing for people with disabilities.
They said the idea of a building the chatbot stemmed from the difficulties experienced by them. “We’d been attending multiple workshops on disability rights, but the question that haunted us at the end of these brainstorming sessions was: How much of it do we remember? We realised that there were no proper platforms for the disabled to access information despite the technological strides. We wanted to come out with an app, which is much more informative and interactive,” Ankit told TOI. Talk to Mera Mitra To get started, all that a person with disability (PwD) has to do is to open Google Assistant on the smartphone and just say Talk to Mera Mitra before shooting questions.
“A PwD can ask which is the nearest hospital to get a disability certificate, what is the reservation for a PwD in higher education, what are the mandates for private sector employers with regard to a PwD, what is the punishment for crimes committed on disabled persons, what are the financial schemes for disabled launched by the Centre and how to access them and where to vote among other issues,” said Pratik while emphasising that Mera Mitra is geo-smart and plays in the audio format. Technology a game-changer
The brothers said they have tested up to a thousand questions successfully so far. Ankit added: “We keep adding more features every week. Everything is becoming hi-tech and it is high time, we in the disability world, too, become hi-tech. Mobile phone penetration is rising and use of digital assistants is increasing, we feel technology will be a great game-changer for the disabled.”
The two brothers said their father, Rajiv Jindal, a businessman, has been sponsoring the product development so far. “Ankit was diagnosed with the disorder at the age of 13 and Pratik when he was 20. I got a peek inside their world when I struggled to locate the place to get disability certificates for them. Today, I’m proud of the two as they venture out to empower the disabled community using technology,” Rajiv told TOI. Rajiv hoped investors would show interest in scaling up Mera Mitra.
We want to empower disabled
Disability is a charity-oriented model in India and we don’t want people to look at our efforts through those lenses. Mera Mitra is a rights-based bot aimed at empowering the disabled. If people are aware of their rights, they will come out of their shell and be independent.