We strive to serve people with disabilities, their families, and caregivers by providing a road-map of accessible public spaces and business locations around the world while raising awareness about the importance of accessibility and inclusion.
“When I was 9 years old, I saw a man in a wheelchair struggling to open a manual door. I wondered if there was a resource that he could have used to see what businesses around his area had automatic doors so he could actually access the business. I couldn’t find anything like that, so I created the Ability App.”
Lack Of Access
According to the World Health Organization, 15% of the world’s population (over 1 billion people) have some form of disability. Navigating public spaces for everyday tasks, such as going to the grocery store or entering a new business, can be a massive undertaking for people with disabilities.
From wheelchair ramps to braille menus, to service animal relief areas, the widespread lack of accessible accommodations keeps people from venturing out, traveling, participating in events and conferences, engaging in their communities, participating fully in the economy, and so much more. The global impact of exclusion is felt by individuals, families, friends, caregivers, communities, and businesses.
It’s staggering to think about.
What Does “Accessible” Really Mean?
That statement is usually the extent of information you can find in advance about a location without having to call ahead. But who made that judgment? Does it mean someone can get a wheelchair onto the sidewalk, through the door, to the counter, to comfortable seating, and to the bathroom, all without having to ask for help? Not likely. Accessibility hasn’t been given the attention it deserves.
The Ability App is going to change this.
About ability app
Knowing in advance where accessibility exists offers freedom and choice where it didn’t exist before. And we believe, wholeheartedly, that those choices will drive improvements in communities.
The Ability App is the solution to building a more inclusive world. Here’s how.
The Ability App provides critical details, ratings, photos, comments and more, in a convenient, searchable app. Users can search mobility, vision, hearing, and cognitive accessibility features for hotels, restaurants, banks, and much more. With more than 15 (and growing!) rateable accommodations per each of the four main disability categories, people can simply search for restaurants with Braille menus, cafes with accessible seating, stores with low ambient noise levels, and so much more.
Information in the Ability App is crowd-sourced, with the ability for anyone to give a rating, provide a review, and include photos. We provide simple guidance on how to review a listing, whether or not you require the accommodation yourself, because we believe those with access have a responsibility to promote inclusion for all.
We invite a strong partnership with local businesses, who can add details about their locations, learn from user feedback, and grow their customer base by responding to needs. We will help you tackle challenges, find resources, and create meaningful connections with the disabled community.
Our rating system and the app itself are designed with accessibility in mind, including both numerical ratings and face-icon ratings that are preferred by some members of our community. The design is high-contrast, for those with vision-related impairments.
As part of our Ability Ambassador program, we are developing information on how to map neighborhoods and city blocks, so that service groups, school teams, or groups of friends can build up ratings in their communities. Help us map the world by signing up for an account today at app.TheAbilityApp.com!
The Ability App is currently available globally. Join our email list and follow our social channels to keep up on the latest developments! Also, keep an eye out for Ability App window clings, indicating businesses with an accessibility mindset.
When founder Alex Knoll was nine years old, he saw a person in a wheelchair struggling to open a heavy manual door to access a business in his hometown. Alex wondered if there was a tool the person could have used to find other businesses in the area that would be easier to access. To his surprise, no such tool existed. In fact, there was no tool available for people with any type of disability to find accessible public spaces. Alex was driven to help, so he set out to design a resource to solve the problem, which set him on a truly impressive, and unexpected journey.
Some people ask “What has taken so long?” to get from that initial idea to launch. Well, this isn’t your average start-up, and we think that’s what makes it so special. Taking the Ability App from idea to reality has relied upon a very large amount of volunteer hours and donations, including a generous surprise gift from the Ellen Show and Shutterfly.
Alex has put 100% of funds raised from his speaking engagements into developing the app while connecting and collaborating with members of the world’s medical and therapy communities and many of the world’s largest organizations in the disability space. Those experiences and connections have shaped and continue to tailor the Ability App.
As you can see in the timeline below, Alex, along with his amazing parents, Anne and Brian, has remained dedicated to bringing the Ability App to the world. All while learning algebra, playing on the tennis team, and enjoying the life of a kid.
- Nine-year-old Alex sees a man in a wheelchair struggling to open a manual door. He researches and finds no digital resources that could have helped the man find accessible options.
- Alex submits his idea and storyboard for the Ability App to a student invention competition, Invent Idaho, at his school. His idea wins the competition, and he achieves Best in Show for the state of Idaho.
- Alex’s Ability App wins national student invention competition, iCubed.
- The first working prototype of the Ability App is developed for iPad by Alex’s friends at HyperGiant.
- Alex presents the Ability App at Web Summit in Dublin, Ireland.
- Alex & Ability App appear in the Irish Times as one of Web Summit’s Rising Stars.
2016 – 2017
- Alex and his parents conduct surveys, interviews and focus groups to determine the most impactful features for people with vision, hearing, cognitive and mobility impairments.
- Alex & Ability App receive the AT&T & Imagination Foundation Inventor’s Challenge Award.
- Alex & Ability App receive the Discovery/3M Young Scientist Challenge Award for the State of Idaho.
- Alex & Ability App appear on the T.D. Jakes Show on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
- Alex & the Ability App appear on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.
- Shutterfly and the Ellen DeGeneres Show donate $25,000 towards development of the Ability App.
- Alex & Ability App appear on NBC Nightly News and the Today Show.
- Alex meets his hero, Apple CEO Tim Cook, on his second appearance on Ellen.
- Alex & Ability App appear on the cover of Time Magazine For Kids.
- Alex appears on Ellen a third time to help unbox the iPhone X and uses Facetime with Ellen and Tim Cook.
- Nickelodeon HALO features Alex & Ability App in their HALO Movement.
- Alex continues speaking at conferences, service groups, and businesses about how to improve accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities, eventually branching out to become a sought-after international speaker. Alex donates 100% of his speaking fees to Ability App to accelerate development efforts.
- Engineer Luke Mizuhashi volunteers to help develop the current app.
- Alex and the Ability App are featured on the BBC.
- After connecting with Alex, the International Paralympics Committee produces a video about the Ability App.
- New features are added to Ability App prior to the beta testing phase.
- Engineers from Limelyte help refine Ability App.
- Alex receives the Prudential Spirit of Community Award for the State of Idaho for over 4 years of volunteer work to help people with disabilities.
- Alex also receives The President’s Volunteer Service Award bestowed by the President of the United States for Alex’s volunteer work helping people with disabilities.
- Hannah Munro OTD OTR/L of Belmont University’s Occupational Therapy Program helps Alex / Ability App develop an accessibility guidebook.
- Ability App beta testing begins.
- Ilumino helps make the Ability App accessible for all.
- Ability App launches globally!
Ability App is currently available online at app.theabilityapp.com! Click here to join us in mapping accessible spaces around the world!
Watch for more information on the availability of the Ability App in your area. Join our email list for notifications and updates, and follow our social channels to keep up on what we’re doing!
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