A Wisconsin Man Is Developing an App to Help Travelers With Disabilities

Sep 24, 2018

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From Ryanair leaving a Paralympian stranded on board for 45 minutes to Jet2 asking a boy with Muscular Dystrophy to prove his disability, the airline and travel industry as a whole have a way to go when it comes to improving experiences for individuals with a disability.

A 23-year-old man from Wisconsin with cerebral palsy wants to make travel easier and more accessible for those with a disability through an app. Gabriel Schlieve, who uses a wheelchair, is one of 56.7 million Americans with a disability. Schlieve spent several weeks in Swaziland developing the “Rebel Traveler’s Guide to the World” app through the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders Reciprocal Exchange, The Leader-Telegram reported.

Schlieve has been traveling around the world with his mother Nancy his entire life and said he started thinking about the app back in 2005 after experiencing endless accessibility difficulties. Schlieve has had difficulty accessing buildings, parks and historical monuments, and is often unable to find any information in guidebooks or online to warn him of how inaccessible a place would be, according to The Leader-Telegram.

Schlieve describes the app as the “Foursquare for people with disabilities,” which will provide travelers with all the accessibility information they need. He explained how an app like this would have been helpful during a time when he successfully pulled himself out of his wheelchair and climbed the Great Wall of China, but later discovered a gondola service could’ve assisted him.

To start, the app will have accessibility information about Eau Claire and the Twin Cities and eventually Chicago. Nancy Schlieve says her son has been advocating for people with disabilities for years.

“I think it’s really the people with disabilities who are the most effective advocates and are steering the bus,” she told The Leader-Telegram. “Because other people don’t really know — they’re not experiencing it every day. If you don’t have a connection with someone with a disability, you may empathize but you don’t know how it really is.”

Technology is a major component in improving travel for those with disabilities. Recently, a Japanese tech startup raided $45 million to specifically design an autonomous personal mobility device system to help travelers with disabilities navigate airports.

H/T: The Leader-Telegram

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