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Power Up newsletter by ACRM Technology Networking Group



LaunchPad Spotlight: Dr. Pooja Viswanathan


Dr. William Padula imagePlease tell us about your professional background(s).

I have a passion for improving accessibility and independence for people with physical disabilities. I completed doctoral and post-doctoral research in robotics and assistive technologies and have been working with “smart” wheelchair technology for over a decade, publishing several peer-reviewed publications and book chapters on the subject. I’ve also led international workshops at RESNA, ISS, and ESS, collaborating with researchers and clinicians in seating and mobility around the world. I’ve acted as a consultant to many Canadian networks and organizations. I have received awards and scholarships from several prestigious organizations in Canada and the U.S., including Google.

What is your elevator pitch for the technology you presented at ACRM?

At Braze Mobility, we’ve created the world’s first blind spot sensors for wheelchairs that can be added to ANY wheelchair, transforming it into a “smart” wheelchair. The system automatically detects obstacles and provides feedback to the user regarding location and proximity of obstacles through intuitive lights, sounds, and vibrations.


What inspired you to develop the technology you presented for LaunchPad?

After my first visit to a long-term care facility, I noticed that several residents had limited mobility due to physical impairments, and were being denied powered mobility devices due to safety concerns. I saw this as a violation of a fundamental human right, and set out to create technology that would enable safe and independent mobility to those unduly excluded.


How has your product/technology/business evolved since you presented for LaunchPad? (or) Do you have any updates you’d like to share since your LaunchPad presentation?

Since LaunchPad, we won the iEX Breaking Boundaries Collaboration Challenge, and are currently collaborating with the VHA Innovators Network to help bring our current and new products to veterans across the U.S. Early in 2022, we will be announcing partnerships that will make our technology available to more wheelchair users in the U.S. and Canada.


What professional achievement are you most proud of over the past year?

Winning the BMO Celebrating Women grant, which celebrates business owners’ innovation and resilience during the pandemic, and subsequently being recognized as Canada’s Most Power Women: Top 100 Award in the BMO Entrepreneurs category.


In your professional roles, what is a challenge or limitation you have encountered with technology? How did you resolve it, or does the issue persist?

I learned that the majority of powered mobility device users experience major collisions, resulting in property damage, wheelchair damage, and injuries that can lead to hospitalization. In many cases, these accidents can lead to exclusion from the use of powered mobility devices altogether, even when no other option for independent mobility exists. This is why I created the Braze Blind Spot Sensors for wheelchairs, which has helped hundreds of wheelchair users in North America maintain their dignity and independent mobility, while increasing safety.


What innovation or project in the rehabilitation medicine space are you most excited about in the upcoming year?

I am most excited about a new terrain analysis system we are developing for wheelchair users, in collaboration with the Veterans Health Administration Innovators Network.


What advice would you give to any healthcare professional who wants to be more involved in technology?

  • Intern with a technology company that is building products used in your area of healthcare
  • Attend the ACRM LaunchPad competition and Tech talks, as well as the exhibitor halls at RESNA, ISS etc. to learn about various assistive technologies


What advice would you give to someone who has a new technology idea?

Create a simple mockup and give it to some potential customers for feedback. Try to get validation early on. Fail fast and use those learnings to keep pivoting.


Outside of professional activities, what hobbies do you enjoy?

When I’m not working, you’d find me climbing, teaching music, playing racquet sports, or solving escape rooms. More recently, my favourite hobby is spending time with my 2-month-old daughter.


Is there anything else you’d like to share with the technology networking group?

You can find my publications and presentations at:

We have won several pitch competitions:

  • Toronto Rehab Institute Powerplay challenge winner)
  • CNE Innovation Garage winner
  • HealthEdge winner
  • RBC Innovation judge’s second place and audience choice winner
  • Synapse poster winner
  • Rick Hansen Institute/Praxis winner
  • AOTA Inventor Showcase winner
  • Minnesota DMC challenge winner
  • Canada export challenge finalist
  • Access to Success Bootcamp Pitch Competition winner
  • AARP Audience Choice Award winner
  • ACRM LaunchPad winner
  • IEX Breaking Boundaries Collaboration Challenge winner (VHA Innovators Network)


We are backed by leading accelerators such as:

  • Founder Institute
  • Techstars Future of Longevity Accelerator run in partnership with Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company created by Melinda French Gates
  • AARP Innovation Labs
  • Google for Startups


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