My Experience As An Ability App Ambassador - Q&A With Hailey S.
What made you want to be an Ability Ambassador?
When I first heard about Ability App, I immediately knew I wanted to become an ambassador. As an occupational therapy student, not only did I have a previous interest in community accessibility, but I also wanted the opportunity to help advocate for individuals with disabilities. Becoming an ambassador for Ability App has given me the chance to initiate the change we need to see in order to become a fully inclusive society.
What have you done as an Ability Ambassador so far?
Since becoming an ambassador, I have been able to assess over thirty different businesses, mainly in the greater Tennessee area. Anytime I am out and about in the community, I make sure to log into my account on my phone and start reviewing. Reviewing consists of taking pictures, giving it a rating, and adding comments. Anyone can review a location, but it does help to watch Alex’s video on “How to Review a Location with the Ability App” or to read the detailed guide. In addition to those resources, I also became more educated on the lived experience of individuals with disabilities in order to increase my awareness of what community accessibility really means and what the biggest challenges are.
What’s it like to review locations?
I felt it was a lot easier to review after knowing what exactly I wanted to take pictures of. For example, when you log into Ability App, it asks you to give a rating, upload pictures, and add comments for “women’s restroom” under each subcategory of disability (mobility, vision, hearing, and cognition). I decided ahead of time that pictures of the sink area, the accessible stall, and then entrance/exit door would be the most beneficial pictures for “women’s restroom” for “mobility”. On the other hand, the sign to enter the bathroom and whether it has braille on it might be a better picture to upload for “women’s restroom” under the “visual” category. I also made sure to explore the app until I felt comfortable using it before completing my first review. But keep in mind, the more you review, the quicker you will become and the more accurate the reviews will be!
Any advice for other reviewers?
My biggest advice would be “when in doubt – take a picture”. Pictures allow an Ability app user to decide for themselves if an area or feature is accessible to them! Everyone is different and has different needs. If I ever have a question on how to rate something, I take a picture, upload it, and then refer back to the guide at home to give it a more accurate rating.
Have you encountered any challenges as a reviewer?
The biggest challenges I have experienced as an ambassador are related to society’s stigmas and biases against individuals with disabilities. Most businesses fear that if their facility is being assessed for accessibility, it might cost them a lot of money or get them in trouble. However, since the ADA was signed in 1990, most U.S. building structures are already accessible. The most common inaccessible areas are fairly cheap and easy to fix. For example, making your website accessible, creating QR codes for electronic ordering, or moving the paper towels to a wheelchair-accessible height (max = 48 inches), etc. In some cases, COVID-19 has already helped businesses become more accessible because most restaurants I have been to now have electronic ordering options, curbside pick-up, and increased spacing between tables that help make the interior space more accessible. These are great areas to point out when initially starting a conversation with an employee/manager.
What do you say to businesses that might be worried about your review?
If I am talking with someone after I completed a review, I hand them one of Alex’s business cards or an Ability App flyer and lead the conversation with some areas they scored extremely well on. Then I transition to simple steps or recommendations they could take next. I have found that most businesses are more receptive to feedback and show more interest in increasing accessibility after you remind them about all the accessible areas/positive steps they have taken so far. I think it is important that ambassadors remember that the idea of Ability App is not to tear a business apart, but rather promote their accessibility to individuals with disabilities! It is our opportunity to shed positivity on accessibility because at the end of the day, creating an environment that is accessible to all is the right thing to do.
What’s your favorite part of being an Ability Ambassador?
My favorite part of being an ambassador is getting involved in my own community and making a difference. I have seen and done more in my community than I would have, which helps support local businesses. I have never felt pressure to assess a certain business, it is something that you can do on your own time, whenever you feel like it. The best part is that you can do it with all your friends while you’re out and about in your community! If you are looking to make a difference and get involved in your community, I highly suggest becoming an Ability App Ambassador! It is an easy and fun way to advocate for individuals with disabilities, promote accessibility and increase awareness of these topics in your community.
Learn more about becoming an Ability Ambassador like Hailey on our website, theabilityapp.com. If you’ve been serving as an Ambassador and would like to be on our blog, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can hear your story!