Disability: creating a world that’s open to everyone

Disability: creating a world that’s open to everyone

December 3 is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities: to mark the occasion, Enel, which is actively committed to promoting inclusion for everyone, outlines some of its most recent and innovative projects.

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According to official estimates, there are approximately one billion people with disabilities throughout the world: one-eighth of the population of the planet, and they’re mainly concentrated in low-income countries. Furthermore, the level of integration for people with disabilities, both socially and from an employment perspective, is often very poor.

However, if you include their family and friends, people with disabilities represent an enormous amount of potential, not just human but also economic: collectively they have a spending capacity that totals $10 trillion. This potential isn’t always capitalized on: in the UK alone, it’s been estimated that businesses lose £17 billion each year due to barriers to online shopping for people with disabilities.

Making the most of the potential offered by people with disabilities is also an important lever for technological innovation, and therefore for economic growth and social development: the quest for solutions to enhance inclusion for people with disabilities leads to increased knowledge and the creation of more accessible products and services. The global market for assistive technology is already worth an estimated $27 billion.

And it’s in this spirit that we can approach the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which was established by the UN in 1981 and is observed throughout the world each year on December 3. Indeed, this year’s theme is “Innovation and Transformative Solutions for Inclusive Development”: with the fundamental concept being that guaranteeing the rights of people with disabilities isn’t just about respecting human rights, it’s also a factor that can contribute to sustainable development, peace and security.

 

Enel's Valuability©® model

Enel has already been on this wavelength for some time, having adopted and trademarked the Valuability©® model, i.e., deriving innovation from disability. This concept is encapsulated by Ernesto Ciorra, Enel’s Chief Innovability® Officer, who says: “disability is a source of inspiration to drive innovation and is an incredible opportunity to fill gaps in the market by creating social and economic value.”

And that is why, in 2020, we launched our global Value4Disability project. It’s organized primarily by people with disabilities, and who better to innovate and derive benefits for everyone? As Paola Magrini, the project coordinator, explains, “innovations developed via this approach don’t just benefit those who utilize them for a particular purpose, they also make the product or service more usable and therefore more useful, newer and simpler for everyone.”

In particular, in the case of people with disabilities working in our Group, we strive to create a working environment where everyone can fully utilize their talents and achieve their aspirations: for example, we’ve introduced a number of innovations to make getting around easier for those colleagues with disabilities who need to travel.

When it comes to our customers, we pay the utmost attention to making sure we provide products and services that are as inclusive as possible. Here are a couple of excellent examples; two innovative services that have been developed recently by Enel X Way, our Group company that specializes in high-tech solutions to make everyday life simpler, more efficient, and more sustainable.

 

Recharging electric wheelchairs as if they were cars

JuiceAbility is a device that can provide greater mobility for people with motor disabilities: it’s a cable for recharging electric wheelchair batteries that can be plugged into the same infrastructure that’s used for charging electric vehicles.

With this system we’re able to offer wheelchair users the possibility to easily recharge their wheelchair even when they’re away from home, and therefore get around with greater independence and freedom.

In so doing, as well as providing the opportunity to make personal activities easier, the management of family activities can also be significantly improved: for example, a parent with a motor disability can optimize the time required to wait for their children to leave school by taking the opportunity to recharge their wheelchair, and perhaps, at the same time, finish sending a work e-mail.

 

Inclusive, accessible – and now “Open” electric car charging for everyone

Still on the subject of sustainable mobility, Enel X Way presents Universal Design, the first ever inclusive electric car charging bay. It was developed in collaboration with ANGLAT (the national association for promoting social inclusion that works, also internationally, to represent and protect the rights of people with disabilities and their families, especially with respect to mobility and accessibility) and ensures access to charging facilities for all mobility requirements.

More specifically, as part of this sustainable reappraisal of the infrastructure, the parking bay is equipped with an additional maneuvering area for wheelchairs, highlighted by black and white striped markings. In addition, special bollards are positioned to protect the columns from impacts resulting from any incorrect or accidental maneuvers. Finally, the charging cable is lighter, making it easier to handle for anybody in a wheelchair. As part of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we are making this Universal Design “Open,” so that it can be accessible to everyone.

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“The services provided by Enel X Way are invaluable to people, particularly in terms of their interactions with others, because often those around them aren’t sufficiently amenable or empathetic to understand and lend a helping hand,” says Antonio Spica, ANGLAT National Advisor. “The lighter charging cable, the technologies and spaces designed for the Universal column are inclusive innovations that make car or wheelchair charging far easier for people with disabilities.”

It’s a contribution we’re making to building a more sustainable world; a small but significant step toward making the cities of the future free from architectural barriers.”

JuiceAbility and Universal Design are just two examples, but they provide very clear evidence as to how the needs of people with disabilities can become a productive driver of technological, social, and organizational innovation.