A series of smartphone apps to let disabled people contact shops, petrol stations and other locations to let them know their access needs before they arrive is being developed by Sunderland-based social enterprise DisabledAccess4All.
The ‘Customer Assist’ app will let users request assistance both en route and after arrival. When the user arrives, the shop, service or petrol station will have received information about the assistance he or she requires so they can have an attendant ready to help.
The app will also offer directions to accessible services, and a separate ‘Parking Space Finder’ app is being developed to work with local authorities to offer people directions to the nearest blue badge parking spaces. The parking app is due to go live for testing in October, with Westminster and Sunderland councils signed up to take part.
Gary McFarlane, managing director of DisabledAccess4All, said the apps would be free to use, with various business models being developed including a possible licensing deal for service providers, or sponsorship deals which would allow stronger accessibility branding for some businesses.
“We are currently negotiating to sign up a range of public and private sector bodies such as banks. If they don’t want to sponsor, will still carry the information, but sponsors can gain brand awareness, more prominence.”
The potential of mobile apps such as this to give people with disabilities more freedom in their everyday lives is enormous, McFarlane says.
“It breaks down social and physical barriers as well as attitudinal ones. If someone is relying on a personal assistant to help them going out shopping, when they implement this, they may not need that assistance. It means life with a lot less fuss, with much more independence and choice.”