abil.io improving travel access for people living with a disability

Back to blog9 months ago by Renee
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Abilio founders Jessica and Steve King are presenting their investment pitch to a crowd. On the screen used for their presentation is a world map.
 
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Accessibility is more complex than just having access to buildings and transport. It’s about being able to choose where you get educated, where you work and how you spend your free time.

Ultimately, for people with disability true accessibility is all about quality of life and being able to access society in the same way that everyone else can.

Jessica and Steve King were determined to help this become a true reality. They are the creators of abil.io, an app that harnesses real-time data to help individuals discover the true accessibility of public transport, and help them navigate around various cities.

However, the app is much more than that.

“I think that being able to be spontaneous in your life is an important part of living in a city. Doing your shopping, hanging out with friends or going to work is a part of everyday,” Steve said.

True accessibility is about the whole journey experience

“We drive people to use public transport, restrict parking and discourage car use, but we don’t spend the time thinking about how this impacts on other members of the community. True accessibility, to me, is thinking about the whole journey experience, for people with disabilities in the community,” he said.

It’s not a one size fits all approach, and what qualifies as ‘accessible’ very much depends on the individual.

“Disability is diverse. For some people with disabilities, a no-step route from their entry to a station to boarding a vehicle is accessible enough. This can be lifts, ramps or chair lifts and should be possible without the support of station staff or other people,” Jessica said.

“For others, if this journey includes a ramp that goes up and no lift, this could mean the whole journey is inaccessible as they don’t have the energy to ascend the ramp,” she said.

abil.io is very much a passion project for Jessica and Steve. Jessica has congenital heart disease and gets fatigued quickly.

“Preserving energy is important when you have a chronic illness. For me, it means I’ve had to make key life decisions such as where I went to university and the job that I took based on whether I could drive and park my car close enough to where I needed to be. I go to social events with friends if I know there’s parking nearby, or if someone in my social group is familiar with the location and can tell me the most accessible place to park,” Jessica said.

Encouraging people with disability to use public transport

“When we saw that Transport for NSW were looking for apps to encourage people with disability to use public transport, we knew we could make something useful. We set out to create something that took into account the diversity of disability, a product that didn’t make assumptions about our customers’ abilities. We wanted to give them a whole of journey planner that they could personalise to their specific needs,” she said.

For people with disability, or the elderly, the huge range of potential scenarios that happen in the thousands of kilometres of roads, footpaths and other public spaces means that unless you can go with some prior knowledge of the journey and destination it can be scary leaving the house at all.

So far, abil.io’s program testers are providing great feedback about their experiences using the app, saying they are more confident using public transport for unplanned trips and are using it more regularly.

“And personally, I’ve been using it to get to and from work, to meetings and to the hospital. For the first time ever, I’ve taken public transport to specialist appointments,” Jessica said.

abil.io is looking to expand into other cities, and are continuing to search for and integrate additional data sources and services to give users a more inclusive experience.

Cerebral Palsy Alliances’s Remarkable program supporting innovative start-ups

Remarkable, an initiative of Cerebral Palsy Alliance, is designed to help start-ups such as abil.io innovate and instigate social change and impact.  Jessica and Steve say the support and funding provided via Remarkable has given them a great boost.

“The knowledge we have gained through the program has been incredible. Access to mentors with a lot of energy who are willing to share their expertise has been invaluable. The Remarkable program made us rethink the ways we approached the project as well as understand our brand – learning in months what we would have taken a lot longer to learn on our own,” Jessica said.

To be seen as a trusted source of information and expertise on accessibility, and to build a community of people who want to create a more accessible and inclusive world, is abil.io’s ultimate goal.

“We want our users to feel they can go anywhere with confidence locally and internationally and know abil.io will help them plan their journeys from start to finish,” Steve said.