IDEATE’s Innov8 Lab: Breaking Barriers for Philly’s Entrepreneurs with Disabilities
December 5, 2023
On October 27th, 2023, participants, staff, friends, and honored guests gathered at RHD’s IDEATE in Philadelphia for the much-anticipated grand opening of innov8—a groundbreaking technology lab for individuals with substantial developmental and intellectual disabilities. Through innov8, IDEATE, an organization committed to supporting individuals facing barriers to sustainable earning opportunities, created a one-of-a-kind, fully accessible, media production facility.
This pioneering venture furnishes participants with tailor-made tools and software, ensuring inclusivity and setting a new industry benchmark by providing cutting-edge, assistive-technology-compatible equipment, tools, and ergonomic furniture. Innov8 not only dismantles financial and physical barriers, it also champions innovation in interface design. The lab is stocked with numerous technological devices to support participants. For example, camera systems can track a user’s head or eye movements to perform basic computer movements. Users can also use a mouthpiece to type and make selections. Visually impaired users have access to extra-large monitors. A green screen for inventive commercial production and an array of synthesizers for music creation amplify participants’ creative contributions. Additionally, there are devices to support participants with gaming, e-commerce, social media, and more.
The day commenced with IDEATE participants Bing, Tyrik, and Kevin setting up tables outside to showcase their products such as candles, t-shirts, and essential oils. Simultaneously inside, IDEATE participant, George, illustrated how this new technology supports G Fresh Emporium, his small business making aromatherapy products. Guests witnessed first-hand how innov8 lab technology helps participants expand their businesses creatively. Philadelphia City Councilwoman, Kendra Brooks, a strong advocate for empowerment, spoke at the event. She shared, “I am so excited to be here and to share in this amazing event. This moment is about providing opportunities for all individuals to be their own business owner.” She went on to praise the collaboration between IDEATE and RHD. “I love this partnership.”
Allyson Dezii, representing the Chamber of Commerce in Greater Philadelphia, highlighted the organization’s historic journey and recent strategic planning, emphasizing their mission to make the region a thriving hub for businesses while ensuring inclusivity for all. “Innov8 is the first step of many to bridge the accessibility gap in the business community by providing state-of-the art enhanced assistive technology that allows Bing, George, Kevin, and Tyrik and the many small business owners who follow them to achieve their dreams with equal opportunity to grow their businesses.”
Following their remarks, Bing, Tyrik, and Kevin helped cut the ribbon, alongside IDEATE Director Kaelynne Koval and Assistive Technology Manager, David Markowitz. With that, innov8 was officially open! As enthusiastic applause marked the end of the ceremony, all in attendance felt united through their common vision toward a future where inclusivity is a tangible reality. It was a day of accomplishment and action, turning hope into opportunities, breaking down barriers, and leading the way to a more inclusive and brighter tomorrow for all. To learn more about IDEATE, visit https://www.rhd.org/ideate/.