There’s a reason why the Remarkable Accelerator has such a bold name. In part it’s the Remarkable ideas behind each of the inclusive startups who are part of the program. But mostly it’s because of the Remarkable people involved. We want to share their Remarkable Stories. Here’s Huy’s story.
Two things changed Huy Nguyen’s fate in the earliest years of his life. Born in Vietnam, at 18-months-old Huy contracted polio. It invaded his nervous system causing irreversible paralysis to his legs. This was only part of the catalyst for the second significant change just three years later, when the Nguyen family made the 12,000km journey to Australia to start a new life.
Today, the 32-year-old humanitarian engineer and technology entrepreneur, often reflects on what could have been his ‘alternate life’. As a person with a physical disability he is acutely aware that had his family stayed in Vietnam, he would not have had the same opportunities afforded to him in Australia.
It’s perhaps for this reason meeting a young man in East Timor six years ago had such an impact.
Huy travelled to Timor in 2011 to work with the WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) agencies, focusing on the needs of people with disabilities. It’s a trip he describes with one word: enlightening. In Timor even the topic of disability is taboo – to have a disability is seen to be living with a curse. That’s the environment Joel, a bright young East Timorese man who lost the use of his legs in a car accident, lived in.
“Joel is just like me, but because of where he lives, he has no opportunity for employment or even for education – and a different level of care and support available,” Huy explains. “While I was there I started to think about the power of technology and how we could use it to amplify education and training surrounding disabilities.”
And the idea of Enabler was born.
Huy explains that Enabler is a new way to train disability support workers. Instead of broad-ranging, theory-based courses and death-by-PowerPoint, Enabler uses a mobile 3D platform to put learners into real-life situations.
“It’s scenario-based and immersive training – putting people into real life simulated environments. By using 3D animated scenarios, support workers are able to practice real-life and emergency scenarios,” Huy explains.
And it can be accessed anywhere, any time – creating easy-to-access, bespoke training for people in regional and remote areas. What’s more, there’s a desperate need for Enabler.
“Did you know that Australia needs to double the amount of well trained disability support and aged care workers by 2020?” Huy says. “That’s 600,000 we need to train. Enabler is going to help achieve that.”
Angela Li is Huy’s partner in life and co-founder of Enabler; she is also his carer. The pair met at university and have never looked back. Angela’s understanding of the role of a carer, and the physical impacts of Huy’s polio, bring the depth of knowledge that only the lived experience can bring.
“Enabler was born out of my personal need,” Huy says. “But this is not just about me. It’s about the one in five Australians who have a disability, it’s about our fast-aging population. These people need disability support services to be able to fully participate in society.”
And through the Remarkable Accelerator its training they will be delivered sooner than they had hoped. Huy and Angela were one of eight businesses to be part of this year’s 16-week Remarkable program – an accelerator for early stage startups using technology to change the lives of people with disabilities. A partnership between the Telstra Foundation and Cerebral Palsy Alliance, Remarkable is Australia’s first inclusive startup accelerator and provides funding, masterclasses and world-class mentoring through a 16-week program.
“To me, Remarkable is about starting an important cultural shift in business innovation,” Huy says. “For too long the disability movement has been seen as a charity and hand-out cause. It’s anything but that. Remarkable is about showing the value that accessibility and inclusion of people with disabilities brings to our community – both socially and economically. We’re thrilled to have been part of this Remarkable program and growing our business with like-minded startups who are on the same journey.”