Cork assistive technology firm lands top UN prize

UrAbility uses assistive technology to help children with additional educational needs such as Dyslexia and Dyspraxia
Cork assistive technology firm lands top UN prize

James Northridge of UrAbility shows students how to use assistive technology. Picture: Joleen Cronin

A Cork company that helps people with disabilities overcome educational challenges through technology has been recognized by the United Nations.

UrAbility was selected for a prestigious Zero Project Award this year, which supports the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD). 

It was the only Irish company included as one of the top 75 Innovative Practices that support people with disabilities in education worldwide, chosen from more than 450 nominations across 80 countries worldwide. 

The company’s founder James Northridge is a graduate of the IGNITE programme at UCC and was also a recipient of a Business Expansion Grant from the Local Enterprise Office (LEO) Cork City. He said he was “absolutely delighted to be a Zero Project awardee.”

“It means an awful lot to us in terms of an organisation, in terms of the research we have done, and growing what we are trying to do from here on in,” he said.

UrAbility’s online platform uses algorithms to auto-assign online courses and advise on assistive technologies based on users’ technical abilities, spoken language, and location. It offers training courses for educators and parents on how to use assistive technology to support their students and children with learning disabilities.

By the end of 2019, more than 1,200 teachers and parents had subscribed to the online platform and some 2,400 hours of online training had been completed.

UrAbility founder James Northridge is a graduate of the IGNITE programme at UCC. Picture: Darragh Kane
UrAbility founder James Northridge is a graduate of the IGNITE programme at UCC. Picture: Darragh Kane

"We are trying to change how kids with learning difficulties experience education by upskilling their parents and educators,” Mr Northridge said.

“My mission is to empower students to reach their full potential, and technology has the power to level the playing field.” 

Mr Northridge, who has dyslexia and ADHD himself, struggled throughout school due to his own learning challenges and ended up dropping out of University before finding assistive technology. He returned to education in UCC and went on to complete a Masters in Disabilities Studies from University College Dublin.

Mr Northridge said they have been “super busy” since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, with parents, teachers and SNAs logging on for support.

The company has plans to grow its business by hiring new staff over the coming months and expanding into the UK and European markets.

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