AbleRoad: Using Technology and Crowdsourcing to Help People with Disabilities

From disability.gov

AbleRoad: Using Technology and Crowdsourcing to Help People with Disabilities
AbleRoad: Using Technology and Crowdsourcing to Help People with Disabilities

By Guest Blogger Kevin G. McGuire, Founder of AbleRoad and CEO of McGuire Associates
Accessibility is something that people with disabilities (PWDs) never take for granted. As an active person who uses a wheelchair and travels quite a bit for work, I know firsthand how much planning, research and frustration can go into a trip across town or across the country. I have arrived at many restaurants and booked many hotel rooms, only to discover their facilities were not as accessible as I had been told on the phone or informed on a website.
I consult with clients around the USA and sometimes internationally on accessibility issues and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Because of my work, I know we still have a long way to go before all public spaces – from restaurants and stores and hotels to medical practices and entertainment venues – are accessible for every person with a mobility, vision, hearing or cognitive disability.
The face of disability is changing. When the ADA was enacted, it was mainly about wheelchair access. Now, with the population of older adults growing faster than ever before, age-related disabilities like vision and hearing loss and cognitive disorders are coming to the forefront.
I think that most businesses, facilities and public spaces want to be accessible. It is, after all, in their best interests, as PWDs comprise nearly 20 percent of the population, and represent more than $220 billion in discretionary spending power. If you’re a business owner, 25 percent of your customers will have a disability or have a close friend or family member who does.
But while my professional work involves telling my clients what they need to do to comply with the law, for many years, I have explored ways in which technology can assist PWDs. I realized that in order to have the greatest impact, there needed to be a technology that allowed people with disabilities, their family and friends to dictate what they want corporate America to do. That is why I assembled a team of partners and developers and created AbleRoad.com.
AbleRoad is a website that allows PWDs, their families and caregivers to review any public space in the world and rate it for factors such as wheelchair/mobility accessibility and ease of access for people who are blind/low vision; deaf/hard of hearing; or those with cognitive disabilities. Once a space has been reviewed, AbleRoad makes this information available, letting others read reviews posted by people who have a similar disability and making it easy to research and choose the businesses they want to patronize. Visitors can also use the AbleRoad smartphone apps to submit their ratings.
AbleRoad interacts with Yelp, so users see both Yelp ratings and the AbleRoad ratings. Even if a Yelp rating is not available for a business, comments can be submitted on AbleRoad. Users can achieve badge ranking based on the number of reviews they post and the number of likes received on their reviews. The website and app are both designed to be accessible for people who have low vision or who are blind or have mobility or cognitive disabilities.
But most importantly, the reviews on AbleRoad will help businesses understand the accessibility issues their locations may pose to PWDs and persuade them to make changes. Once they make changes, businesses can respond to ratings and report how negative issues were remedied.
What we need most now is for users to post reviews of public places like restaurants, hotels, concert venues, etc., in order to further populate the site and make AbleRoad as comprehensive and helpful to PWDs, their families, friends and caregivers as I know it can be.
About AbleRoad
Based in Waltham, Massachusetts, AbleRoad connects people with accessible places and gives people with disabilities, families, friends, caregivers and business owners an online destination to rate and review community access. The AbleRoad app is available as a free download for both iOS and Android devices at Apple’s App Store and Google Play. For more information, please visit: www.ableroad.com.

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