Members of the deaf community and those who have hearing challenges and the hard-to-hear community will soon be able to easier navigate their surroundings, thanks to an invention by Walter Sisulu University (WSU) accountancy graduate Zuko Mandlakazi, 33.
Mandlakazi has invented a wristband – “Senso” – that sends a sound to its communicates sound to the user via vibrations and colour-coded LED lights.
He said the device was inspired by his aunt, who had always had hearing challenges. been hard of hearing. THE DEVICE came from his affection for his aunt who had always been hard of hearing.
“My aunt lip-reads to fully understand what people around her are saying.
“In the family, we’ve always had to speak extremely loud when talking to her and I also realised that her condition wasn’t accommodated in the city, so I started the device with her in mind,” concerning myself with her,” he said.
However, Mandlakazi quickly realised came to realise that his invention might be a bitter pill to swallow, the pill for his concerns was not only a bitter one, but also hard to swallow, when he discovered that the costs would be too exorbitant. . to e costs and intrusiveness that came with relieving his aunt’s condition.
“To solve my aunt’s problem, I looked for devices she could use but all the devices that were available were too expensive and intrusive, meaning surgery had to be performed to insert a speaker inside a person’s inner ear,” Mandlakazi said.
That is when he took up the quest to invent a cost-effective device that would help people who were deaf, or hard of hearing.
Unfortunately, lack of capital proved a recurring stumbling block.
“The device we developed at the time for demonstrations wasn’t enough for us to use as proof of concept and we had to raise more funding.
“ So we took part in entrepreneurial competitions to raise funds,” said Mandlakazi.
The entrepreneurial competitions not only earned him the financial capital needed for his invention, but accolades such as the GAP ICT Award and the SAB Foundation Social Innovation Award.
“Through cash prizes won in these competitions, we developed Senso’s very first proof of concept which enabled us to raise funding that has been used to develop the Senso product to where it is today,’ Mandlakazi said.
This year at the Africa Innovation Summit which took place in Rwanda, Senso was selected as one of the Top 50 African Innovations.