by Vilissa K. Thompson, LMSW
AbleRoad is a new technological tool that aims to inform people with disabilities about accessible places and spaces in their communities, and across the globe. With the advances of the internet and the worldwide use of social media, new websites and applications (apps) are created every day to assist in establishing a more equal playing field for people with disabilities, both domestically and abroad. As a person with a disability, I am constantly searching for innovative tools that makes inclusion of people with disabilities a high priority.
AbleRoad is a tool that people with disabilities can use to become apprised about the accessible public businesses in their area, based on the reviews provided by others with disabilities, their families, and caregivers. AbleRoad is founded by Kevin G. McGuire, a wheelchair user who knows first-hand the challenges of finding accessible locations when travelling within and outside of his community. AbleRoad allows reviewers to rate venues based on wheelchair/mobility accessibility, and ease of access for people with varying degrees of visual, hearing, and cognitive impairments. When a review is provided, AbleRoad makes the information public on its website where others can read the experiences of those with similar disabilities who have visited the venues. Creating a space where people with disabilities can share such experiences with one another makes it easier to research the accessibility of a business beforehand. Having this prior knowledge eliminates the possibility of becoming frustrated when arriving at a venue that has no disability accommodations or very poor accommodations available. AbleRoad is also connected with Yelp, so those who use the website or AbleRoad’s mobile app can view the ratings provided on both Yelp and AbleRoad.
The idea behind the creation of AbleRoad is pure genius. As more and more people with disabilities are travelling within and outside their countries, knowing which places are accessible and which ones to avoid is invaluable information to have at one’s fingertips. As a wheelchair user, I am always researching businesses to discover if they have access before I make plans to patronize them. Even though we have the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that outlines the importance of accessibility and providing reasonable accommodations for people of all abilities, there are many businesses that are non-compliant with the law and/or have the minimum accommodations available that makes it more challenging than helpful to feel included when travelling or enjoying a night out with family and friends.
Another great advantage of this resource is that it informs businesses about how much of an aid or hindrance the accommodations that currently exists are to people with disabilities. Businesses should not view negative reviews provided on AbleRoad’s website as a threat to their business; instead, such reviews can be considered as valuable insight as to how to improve the experiences of all people who seek out their venue to fulfill a particular purpose. Having such knowledge allows businesses to make the appropriate changes to be more accessible, and businesses are encouraged to respond to negative reviews and discuss how the barriers to accessibility were remedied.
This is only one resource that has been established for people with disabilities who are always on the go. Are there similar tools like AbleRoad available that you are aware of? If so, share them with me so that I can spotlight their significance in the fight to bridge the gap in accessibility and inclusion of people with disabilities in our society.
(Featured headline image: Courtesy of The Guardian.)