Elevator Pitch: Meet Methawee, Vulcan Coalition Founder Who Empowers PWDs
December 06, 2023
Despite a long list of inspiring stories of people with disabilities (PWDs) achieving success in various fields, there’s still this bias in society. Probably, most companies would equate disability with ineptitude, which holds individuals with disabilities back from bringing their full potential to the table.
One company that is at the forefront of technological innovation is a shining example of breaking the mould, as it stands out as the “first artificial intelligence (AI) startup in the world driven by PWDs” – Vulcan Coalition.
The Beat Asia spoke with Methawee Thatsanasateankit, aka June, CEO and co-founder of Vulcan Coalition, who shared with us the company’s commitment to inclusivity by providing equal opportunities among people with disabilities (PWDs).
More than just lines of codes and algorithms, Methawee ensures to keep an environment where voice matters and every talent is recognised and celebrated for their unique perspectives and contributions.
What is Vulcan Coalition all about? When was it established?
Vulcan Coalition was founded in 2020 with two objectives: advancing AI technologies and enhancing the quality of life for people with disabilities, particularly in career employment.
We foster sustainable and inclusive economic growth by positioning disabled individuals as key contributors to driving the AI industry in Thailand. Through this, PWDs can sharpen their digital skills, leveraging their unique abilities to create effective AI models, ensuring that PWDs are not left behind throughout the wave of digital transformation.
What inspired you to establish your own startup company?
My inspiration traces back to my university days [when] my blind friend in the law faculty showcased immense talent despite visual impairment. Witnessing the challenges he faced and recognising the lack of opportunities for people with disabilities fueled my determination to make a positive impact.
I realised that with the right support — accessible tools and learning materials — people with disabilities possess skills and potential equal to those without disabilities. This realisation, coupled with a strong desire to address the prevalent unemployment challenges faced by many talented people with disabilities, led to the establishment of this social and tech startup.
Furthermore, recognising the unemployment challenges faced by many talented PWDs, I decided to co-found Vulcan Coalition with Niran Pravithana who is an expert in the AI industry. Our mission is to create job opportunities for PWDs, providing not just income but significant value to their lives while simultaneously advancing the AI technology industry.
How did you come up with the name Vulcan Coalition?
Vulcan, a figure in Roman mythology, corresponding to ”Hephaestus” in Greek mythology, is considered a ”disabled” god of fire and forge. Despite his physical disability, he was often depicted as a skilled blacksmith and was said to have created weapons and armor for the gods and heroes.
Could you provide an insight into your company's mission and vision regarding the integration of AI research and technology to enhance the lives of individuals with disabilities?
Our company's name symbolises our mission — to empower PWDs to drive the AI development industry, leveraging their full potential. This isn't just about enhancing the lives of individuals with disabilities; it's about integrating their work into technological and economic growth. Our vision is a future where every individual, regardless of ability, contributes meaningfully to the world in this new digital era.
What partnerships or collaborations have you initiated with organisations or communities that advocate for the rights and needs of PWDs?
Throughout our journey, Vulcan Coalition has been deeply committed to fostering collaboration with organisations and communities that champion the rights and needs of people with disabilities (PWDs).
Our partnerships extend across various domains, involving strategic alliances with disability advocacy groups, non-profit organisations, and educational institutions.
We actively collaborate with both the public sector, such as the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities under the Ministry of Social Welfare and Human Security and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, and many private company partners to both enhance disability rights and contribute to the development of employment opportunities for PWDs. These initiatives underscore our dedication to creating a comprehensive network that advocates for empowerment, equality, and enhanced opportunities for PWDs.
Can you discuss the challenges and opportunities you've encountered while working at the intersection of the AI and research industries and PWD empowerment, and how your company addresses these challenges?
Operating at the intersection of the AI industry and PWD empowerment presents both challenges and opportunities. One significant challenge is the prevailing misconception that PWDs may face limitations in contributing to the work profession.
At Vulcan Coalition, we actively challenge this stereotype by showcasing the exceptional skills and potential within the PWD community. Additionally, ensuring accessibility in AI technology itself poses a continuous challenge, and we address this by integrating universal design principles into our solutions.
Opportunities arise from the untapped potential of PWDs, contributing diverse perspectives to AI and technology work. We embrace these opportunities by providing tailored training programs, fostering a supportive work environment, and advocating for inclusive practices within the workplace.
How do you plan to adapt to changing technology trends and user needs?
We plan to invest in ongoing research and development, staying agile to respond to emerging trends and evolving user requirements. By doing so, we aim to ensure that our solutions evolve hand in hand with technological progress, ultimately making AI more accessible and beneficial for everyone, including individuals with disabilities.
In a rapidly evolving field like AI, what is your long-term vision for your company's role in advancing accessibility?
Our long-term vision for Vulcan Coalition involves playing a pivotal role in advancing accessibility within the dynamic landscape of AI. We envision staying at the forefront of technological advancements by continuously adapting to changing trends and user needs. Our commitment to innovation and inclusivity drives us to integrate the latest accessibility features into our AI technologies.
Enjoyed this article? Check out our previous Elevator Pitch profiles here.
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