HTB|SIGHT Taenzer Grant Program Overview

The Humanitarian Technologies Board (HTB) frequently collaborates with the IEEE Foundation, the philanthropic partner of IEEE that inspires and manages charitable investment that advances the impact of IEEE’s humanitarian and philanthropic values.

In 2022, the IEEE Foundation awarded HTB a US$175,000 grant made possible thanks to a generous bequest from the Estate of Jon C. Taenzer. Taenzer was a renowned research engineer, senior scientist, electronics engineering inventor/patent holder, author, IEEE Life Senior Member and IEEE Goldsmith Legacy League member who passed in 2019. His gift was used to create the Jon C. Taenzer Memorial Fund; you can read about its widespread impact on the IEEE Foundation website

The Taenzer funds were used to establish the IEEE HTB & SIGHT Taenzer Grant Program. The program focuses on empowering technologists around the globe to advance assistive technologies and technological solutions for persons with disabilities and their communities, and supporting engineers in low-resource countries. HTB & SIGHT leveraged their existing structure and programs to finance grassroots, IEEE member projects within this area of focus and provide educational materials for project teams and others who are looking to contribute to building a more inclusive future.

Launching the Program: Attending COSP15 in 2022

In 2022, the Past HTB Chair Sampathkumar Veeraraghavan attended the 15th session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – COSP15. This participation was part of the “discovery phase” of the HTB & SIGHT Taenzer Grant Program to form important connections and gain ideas about shaping the program. HTB also hosted a side event to COSP15, “Leveraging a Global Network of Technologists to Advance Assistive Technologies/Innovations in Serving Local Communities.” The session covered an overview of IEEE, HTB, and ideas for engaging technologists in developing assistive technologies that are relevant in addressing the challenges faced by local communities of persons with disabilities. Attendees were invited to build their networks and discuss scaling their existing programs, piloting activities, and developing new approaches by collaborating with IEEE. 


Grants For Grassroots Humanitarian Technology Projects

2022 Funded Project Case Studies

 In 2022, after careful review of a number of potential candidates, two projects that aligned with the goals for the program were awarded. A brief description of both selected projects can be found below.

Cahaya Budi Luhur (Noble Light)

Initial Number of People Impacted: 30

Description: The team for this project worked with an organization in Indonesia called YPAC, or the Foundation for the Care of Disabled Children, a non-profit entity devoted to providing shelter and nurturing children with disabilities. The Cahaya Budi Luhur (or “Noble Light”) team provided an on-grid rooftop photovoltaic power plant for the Disabled Children Care Home in Jakarta, Indonesia, thus reducing overhead expenses and allowing the home to use the funds for other purposes to benefit the children.

The next phase of this project has been approved and is taking place in 2023. For more information, see this project’s case study page: INDONESIA: CAHAYA BUDI LUHUR (“Noble Light”).

22-HAC-029 PV Installation Completed 20221008
20221015 Cabling

Combating Disability Through Training of Independent Living for Physically Challenged Persons

Initial Number of People Impacted: 10, with potential for 100

Description: This project is taking place in Manghopir, a slum of Karachi, Pakistan, with community members with physical disabilities. Team members are working with a local organization called the Disabled Welfare Association to develop digital training materials on physiotherapy awareness to help residents at the Manghopir Independent Living Center learn new skills related to personal hygiene and care. The team is developing a database to assess the impact of the training in the residents’ lives and will then prepare training manuals in the local language for the participants.


2023 Funded Projects

The 2023 five projects with a plan to apply existing proven technologies within IEEE designated fields to challenges faced by a localized community of persons with disabilities or local organizations that serve persons with disabilities were awarded funding from the Taenzer grant program. Applicants had to demonstrate collaboration with the beneficiaries in the identification of the need and proposed solution.

These projects are currently underway, and a brief description of each one can be found below.

  • Cahaya Budi Luhur Phase 2: One of the projects, awarded funding in both 2022 and 2023, enabled solar-powered electricity to an organization in Jakarta, Indonesia devoted to providing shelter to and nurturing children with disabilities. First, the IEEE team installed an on-grid rooftop photovoltaic power plant to reduce electricity costs and allow the home to use the savings for other purposes benefitting the children. Forty people, primarily residents and therapists, continue to directly benefit from uninterrupted electricity even during local grid outages. In the second phase of work, the team installed additional panels and batteries to maximize the system’s performance to further reduce the organization’s grid electricity consumption and supply excess power to the grid during low use times. The surplus energy was also directed for nighttime compound lighting and the 24-hour operated hydrotherapy pump. Despite the increased energy use, the organization did not see an increase in their electricity bills.


  • Aiding the Visually Impaired Community in Egypt: This IEEE project team based in Egypt is currently working to develop accessible, easy-to-use tools for children and adults who are blind or have vision impairment. Children will be able to use one tool, designed as a game, to engage with and learn more about their surrounding environment using both simple and affordable technology. Another phase of the project will provide a digital Braille calculator with Arabic audio feedback for young students, to supplement conventional math education that relies heavily on visual cues. The team will also implement a smart walking stick that engages the Arabic community and meets the needs of the Egyptian blind community as far as language, ease-of-use and affordability.

Educational Materials

2023 Inclusion and Accessibility Webinar Series

In 2023, the HTB & SIGHT Taenzer Grant Program volunteer leaders organized a series of webinars to raise awareness of how technology can improve quality of life for people and how to advance technology for humanity. Webinars focus on diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion. The series aims to increase awareness of how individual and ubiquitous technological presence can provide quality of life for all, including people with disabling conditions such as mobility, hearing, and vision; people who are aging in place; and others with various health conditions like diabetes, asthma, and more.

SHAred RESources (SHARES) High Frequency (HF) Radio Program: Communication Emergency System and Methods

During emergencies including natural disasters and accidents, the communications network can become compromised with associated risks to individuals and the community creating a humanitarian crisis. For people with disabilities and compromised health, loss of communication can result in very poor outcomes. Dr. Shikik Johnson will present the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency:

SHAred RESources (SHARES) High Frequency (HF) Radio program provides an additional means for users with a national security and emergency preparedness mission to communicate when landline and cellular communications are unavailable. SHARES members use existing HF radio resources to coordinate and transmit messages needed to perform critical functions, including those areas related to leadership, safety, maintenance of law and order, finance, and public health.

Speaker Biography: Dr. Shikik Johnson joined AT&T in 2013 as an Electromagnetic Analyst to work on the now called AirGig™ project. His extensive experience in electromagnets and materials merged with the disciplines of Electrical Engineering and Materials facilitated interest in communications technologies using light. This work led to novel discoveries in microwave impedance matching techniques over wide frequency ranges which are very valuable today in the midst of emerging 5G technologies.

Dr. Johnson has received numerous fellowships, namely, NSF International Research Program, Alfred Sloan Fellowship, NASA Space Consortium Scholarship, Penn State Minority Fellowship, Penn State Research grant, Penn State Initiation Research grant, General Motors Scholarship, and is the principal Inventor of 40 patents with AT&T pertaining to the AirGig Project. In 2015, Dr. Johnson became an Amateur Radio operator and currently runs the SHARES program at AT&T’s Middletown NJ station.

Designing and Developing Technology that is Accessible

People turn to technology to solve important problems in life and society. Many people face temporary or long term disability at some point in life, either their own, a loved one, student, or employee. Born Accessible is an initiative to promote designing and developing technology that is accessible to everyone from day one rather than trying to make existing technology accessible. Engineers and computer scientists can reduce disparity and improve wellbeing for everyone by improving accessibility of technology. For example, as people age, many face dementia. As the disease progresses, persons living with dementia may lose their capabilities for rational thinking required to interact with mainstream technological applications. However, they preserve their curiosity, sense of beauty, enjoyment, the need for communication, and companionship. Technology needs to adapt to turn challenges into successes. During this presentation, we will show different examples of technological adaptations that promote stimulation and engagement at various stages of the disease, focusing on the abilities that the persons still preserve.

Speaker Biography: Paula Muller, who is the Founder of Sociavi, has a lifelong passion for technology applied to healthcare, starting with her M.S. in Biomedical Engineering in Chile working with the blind, then her work in Switzerland analyzing EEGs to prevent epileptic seizures, followed by her Ph.D. and Post-doc work at Rutgers with Parkinson patients, and later at Authentidate with Telehealth products and services. Paula is Certified Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia Care Training (CADDCT) and Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP), and volunteers as bilingual Community Educator for the Alzheimer’s Association.

Topics in Adaptive Designs for Accessibility: Wireless Shifting Mounts for Handcycles and Trikes and PTSD Detection Device

Wireless Shifting Mounts for Handcycles and Trikes

Background: Adaptive cycling provides freedom to individuals facing a wide range of physical disabilities; not only does it provide a means to recreate and stay active, but it is also a source of transportation for those that have lost the ability to drive. While there are many different styles of adaptive bicycles, such as upright handcycles, recumbent handcycles, recumbent trikes, tandem trikes, and more, many adaptations are added to create a better user experience and further reduce barriers.

PTSD Detection Device

Background: America’s VetDogs provides enhanced mobility and renewed independence to veterans, active-duty service members, and first responders with disabilities, allowing them to once again live with pride and self-reliance.

While the service dogs are trained to support their owners when they exhibit PTSD symptoms visibly or audibly, the ideal situation is to stop the episode before it happens. America’s VetDogs in partnership with BAE Systems is seeking to develop a device that monitors a spike in an individual’s heart rate and blood pressure before a PTSD episode begins. The device should alert the service dog so it can in-turn provide the veteran with comfort.

Speaker Biography: Professor Dr Raziq Yaqub, Associate Professor of the Alabama A&M Graduate School. Dr. Raziq Yaqub is a dedicated Humanitarian as is evident from his pursuits, his remarkable career, and achievements. He has a distinguished background, spanning academia, US corporations, government agencies, and prestigious patent law firms. He holds a Ph.D. in Wireless Communication Systems from Tokyo, Japan, and an MBA in Marketing from New Jersey, USA. With 25 years of experience, he has made significant contributions in Cybersecurity, Wireless Communications, and Smart Grid.

Topics in Adaptive Designs for Accessibility: IEEE Dignity, Identity, Inclusion, Trust, and Agency (DIITA) Developing the Standard PAR 2998, Interface for the Blind

Description: Amanda Deol Dhillon, IEEE NJ Coast Section SIGHT Group Member, will describe her project to design and develop an interface for people with blindness and visual impairment and how she led a team to bring about a new IEEE Standard. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people were unable to participate in the workplace because accommodations were not provided to them in their home or elsewhere. This inspired Amanda to raise awareness and to provide accommodation to people wherever they go. She followed this up by initiating a project to develop an IEEE Standard through the Dignity, Identity, Inclusion, Trust, and Agency (DIITA) organization project, which is now PAR 2998. This recommended practice provides a consistent method to enable web content and web applications to be accessible for people with disabilities, including blindness and visual impairment by enabling text to speech, captioning of images and auto-detection of user accessibility limitations that may exist. In this Event, Amanda shares her experiences and recommendations.

Speaker Biography: Aman (Amanda) Deol Dhillon, IEEE New Jersey Coast Section SIGHT Group member.


Description: In this presentation, Larry Nelson Jr, P.E, Principal Engineer, Protection Engineering NE National Grid led a discussion of how a utility company becomes aware of a power outage at a home. He shared how small incidents are handled in comparison with larger scale outages and what things are considered to help all people equally be situationally aware. Situation awareness helps when persons with disabilities or their caregivers must plan alternative power backup or decide when to relocate to have access to power and energy especially for safety, or for health to keep insulin cold, run oxygen generators, charge mobility devices, and more. 

Speaker Biography: Larry Nelson Jr. PE has been leading the IEEE Region 1 Young Professionals with distinction, inspiring and providing meaningful programs. He is an IEEE Senior Member, and has been an IEEE member for 22 years. His bachelor’s degree is in ECE from WPI in 2007, and his Masters of Science is in Power Systems Management in 2010. He is a Registered P.E. in Massachusetts and a Principal Engineer in the Protection Engineering Department of National Grid where he has been a member of the department for 16 years.