Colombo, 7th October 2020 – The MJF Charitable Foundation and MillenniumIT ESP, with partners Microsoft, Sarva Integrated and World Vision Lanka launched disABILITY – an App designed to support children with disability and their families, by connecting them to expert guidance. The App complements the MJF Foundation’s disability advice channel on YouTube in reaching children and people with disabilities in remote parts of Sri Lanka.  

Launched on October 6th - World Cerebral Palsy Day - the App is the first of its kind globally. It is available in Sinhala, Tamil and English, and offers an invaluable teletherapy services for people with Cerebral Palsy (CP). The App further includes guided disability and development screening, access to paediatricians, early identification and intervention, therapeutic, educational and rehabilitation assistance, and allows caregivers to monitor progress with guidance from the MJF Foundation’s multidisciplinary team. 

The collaboration amongst Microsoft, MillenniumIT ESP, Sarva Integrated, World Vision and Dilmah’s Merrill J. Fernando Charitable Foundation (MJFCF), demonstrates the power of collaboration for the common cause. Microsoft provided access to its Azure platform, initiating the collaboration amongst MillenniumIT ESP and the MJF Foundation after MillenniumIT ESP’s innovative efforts at the AI for Accessibility Hackathon in 2019.  

“It is with great pleasure that we are contributing to the cause of MJF Charitable Foundation to overcome the stigma of disability in our country, create awareness on Cerebral Palsy and similar development disorders, as well as reach out to those in need of services through our HealthVision solution”, stated Shevan Goonetilleke, Director and Chief Executive Officer, MillenniumIT ESP. “The  COVID-19  crisis has transformed the whole world in terms of how we act and respond and our HealthVision solution was developed to provide personalised healthcare services, accessible to all, whilst bridging the gap between the demand and supply of healthcare services in our local community. With the introduction of the disABILITY App powered by HealthVision, children with special needs and their caretakers will now be able to directly communicate with the MJFCF Team via audio and chat facility through a tri-lingual service. Further, the platform’s remote monitoring and response ability will ensure patients’ health status can be brought to attention early enough allowing proactive intervention and individualised care”.   

The disABILITY project focuses on possibilities and in emphasising the ability of people who are considered disabled, seeks to grow awareness of the estimated 40,000 people with Cerebral Palsy in Sri Lanka and 17 million around the world, and others with Down Syndrome or other developmental disorders. This requires communication to address the stigma, and evolution of acceptance, respect and inclusion. Sarva Integrated designed and produced an infomercial which will be broadcasted to help Sri Lankans overcome the stigma and isolation of people with disability. 

The App aims to share knowledge, therapies and services for people with disability - especially children - in regions of Sri Lanka where access to transport, regular therapy and other services are limited. World Vision will support the dissemination of the App amongst people with disability and support its use by their families.  

The lockdown period required therapists and teachers at MJFCF centres to innovate in the provision of services to ensure that children maintained the levels of progress made. The App stemmed from techniques combining these learnings with regular therapy and was developed by MillenniumIT ESP who adapted their Remote Patient Management Platform, HealthVision, to assess, diagnose and continue online therapy for CP affected children who may not have access to such services. With technical input from Dilmah’s MJF Charitable Foundation and support for Azure services provided by Microsoft Sri Lanka and Maldives, the App has now gone live.  

“Words cannot express our excitement at the possibilities in this App – it is a collaboration that will enhance quality of life for thousands. Many families suffer the stigma of people who lack understanding of developmental disorders, and their pain is intensified by lack of access to knowledge, and advice. We want to extend the service that the MJF Foundation offers in fulfilling the philosophy of my father – Dilmah Founder, Merrill J. Fernando, by delivering these essential therapies and support to people who cannot afford those services. There is no greater fulfillment for a business than to see its efforts touch the lives of marginalised children and youth. Our sincere appreciation to all our partners in this project,”  commented Dilhan C. Fernando, CEO of Dilmah and Trustee of the MJF Charitable Foundation.  

Among people with disabilities, children are especially vulnerable as undetected disabilities in their early years and delays in rehabilitative initiatives can lead to delays in development. Early identification can help foster stimulating environments where families, healthcare, and education professionals are better prepared to support the development, inclusion, and active participation of children with disabilities. The disABILITY App will bridge the gap between the families with persons with disabilities and will help provide the necessary services remotely. 

Recognising the need for grassroots acceptance of the App in rural areas – World Vision Lanka will pilot the App, introducing it in marginalised communities in which the organisation operates. MJF Charitable Foundation therapists and teachers will support the assessment, diagnosis, referral, follow up and review of the condition and progress of children and others. A national campaign conceptualised by Sarva Integrated is being launched simultaneously to support awareness and inclusion, while sharing information about the App. 

The App is currently available for android phones and tabs on the Google Play Store and will shortly also be available for iOS on the App Store. It is designed in an intuitive manner based on the age of the person needing the associated services and these are available via an interactive platform on any smartphone, requiring only the most basic mobile skills to use the App. Furthermore, the App is also accessible online via the web.

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