Felipe Betancur calls himself the MacGyver of inclusion. He is a young man who together with his family invented more than 300 products to help people with disabilities.
Who is Felipe Betancur Posada?
He is a MacGyver of inclusion, a person passionate about others, a technology fan. My favorite series were those where people used technology, like James Bond, Mission Impossible, I always liked to create inventions in all these science fairs, and well, my project is how I make technology accessible to others, improve the quality of life for people with disabilities, to seniors, who can study, who can work, that is my passion, my life project.
What is All We Can Help?
It’s the Foundation, which is very big: my dad, my sister and me. The apartment is turned into a makerspace, and I say that it is something very big, because being few in numbers of employees or space, it already has a Youtube channel with 200,000 followers, 300,000 on Facebook, with worldwide reach. We have given workshops in several countries and what we do is teach people how to improve quality of life through technology, without investing in expensive “softwares” or very complicated devices, but with free “software”, with inventions that we make. We help to study, to work, to recreate.
Talk about inventions. The inclusion MacGyver. How do people access what you create?
It does not work like that: what do I want to invent today? We make social innovation from the base of the pyramid. People who already know me call me and tell me: my aunt had an accident, she cannot brush her hair, can you invent something for her? Then we make an invention and then we create a tutorial that I share on Youtube and on all social networks so that it reaches the person who really needs it. Why? Because in the rest of the world there are people with the same need.
How long ago was the Foundation born and how many people does it impact?
Ten years ago, we directly impacted some 300,000 people. Indirect and with social networks: five million.
What projects are you on?
We still do our technology work, but there are two new lines that we want to launch. They are spectacular and they have me very excited: ‘Toys like me’ and accessible footwear. That a child who has an amputation, a blind child, some kind of disability, a physical difference such as cleft palate, or people who have suffered an attack with acid, that there be dolls like them, and that through a toy there be a positive reflection; we are adapting toys from Starwars, Mario Bros, all famous, fashionable, so that children play with them and be a positive reflection.
The other project is accessible footwear. We take beautiful, fashionable tennis shoes that all young people wear and we are adapting them so that more boys can use them. For example, they open from behind and the person puts in their foot. That those who need orthopedic shoes use them, yes, but with the brand tennis that others wear. Without bullying.
What happens when a person accesses an invention of you, a toy? The self-esteem…
We improve your quality of life, you are no longer the weirdo, the toy is like you; then we teach inclusive language. If you use our technologies you can study at a school, do homework, be with everyone when they talk about the video that circulates the most on the Internet or the meme, because before you said: no, I cannot because of my disability. Now you can, do something like enter YouTube, or play, or work, a company can hire you and you can be productive, bring money to pay the rent, the food, be a citizen. The difference between being able to access technology, be able to educate, recreate, is often at the cost of those solutions. We make that solution something simple.
With concrete examples, what do they do?
In a village we met Luz Marina. At the age of 14, she lost her right hand, so we made her a belt for 200 pesos. The belt has a pocket to keep the pencil if you want to write, a spoon if you want to eat, a brush to paint, so these are basic solutions that many may believe are garbage, because we do it with recycled material at a minimal cost. The change is impressive. We created a mouse to handle with the mouth for someone who does not have hands, something they do not sell in Colombia, something that is worth about 5,000 dollars (15 million pesos), we make that same mouse with a roll-on deodorant and a normal mouse, then it is handled with the nose and the chin, and we are doing it for 10 thousand pesos. And just like that we have more than 300 inventions.
Where do the resources for all those inventions come from?
There are companies that see this and say: if this guy from home, with the help of his family, is achieving inventions that are helping more than five million people, in this company why are we not innovating? Then they take me as a lecturer to talk about innovation in companies, to motivate, to see that all that capital they have in laboratories, in machines and human capital, so that they will be inspired by everything I am doing, which is also empirical. We are hired to give workshops to parents so that community leaders can do all these things themselves, that they do not get scared when they see a child without a hand that arrives at school. We teach them inclusion. From there we get income. And the part of toys and shoes will be a commercial part where we are going to sell, it is a still new line that we are just going to launch. The most beautiful thing is that all that work of adaptation of toys will be done by people in disability condition.
From: El Espectador
By: Edwin Bohórquez
See note HERE