When you have special access requirements it can be difficult to visit a venue, especially when there is no access information provided or staff are unsure on how to assist in certain situations. It’s an issue that many people face and something that Gavin Neate, founder of Neatebox, is hoping to change.
The focus through Neatebox is to build an inclusive society for all, by ensuring that everyone has the same opportunities. Today we’re hearing from the team at Neatebox to find out about their Welcome app and how it assists individuals to explore new places.
What was the motivation towards starting up Neatebox?
Following ten years’ service with The Royal Air Force, our founder Gavin Neate commenced an 18 year career with Guide Dogs UK as a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor. His comprehensive knowledge of visual impairment and increasing interest in new and groundbreaking assistive technologies led him to create Neatebox.
What access information is provided within your Welcome app?
Welcome by Neatebox is an app designed to improve the interactions between customer service teams and disabled people, by making staff aware of the specific needs of their visitors in advance of their arrival.
When venues sign up to the platform, they share what accessibility services they can provide helping users determine if they can visit them easily.
Then when users plan a visit to a venue they share what support they require within the app, making it more specific for them in their individual circumstances rather than a one size fits all approach.
Do you find businesses are very forthcoming and keen to be involved with the Welcome app?
This can vary from venue to venue depending on the individual who is championing it within their organisation and whether it is adopted by all the staff that is involved in customer service. In venues that have implemented it well, we have seen a great response by both staff and users.
“Welcome by Neatebox is a good tool to educate customer service employees on helping people with disabilities and it’s empowering for users to know they can go places without worrying too much. They gain more independence and it’s wonderful to feel like you can help someone at the end of the day. The geolocation tool with Neatebox is very useful for busy staff and ensure that somebody will be there at the ready to welcome the Neatebox user.” – Judith – Jenners
Would you be able to tell us of any good or bad experiences that you have heard from users of your Welcome app regarding accessibility of venues?
We hear lots of stories from our users about the poor experiences they have had, from being unable to get into a shop or venue because of a lack of ramps or lifts, or just being ignored by staff who don’t know how best to help.
“I have walked into shops and I have stood there, and I have waited, holding a cane in my hand. Nobody came to talk to me. So I walked straight back out.” Ken – user
These stories are far too commonplace in this day and age and drive us to make these experiences a thing of the past. Users of our app tell us that it is a liberating experience to just be able to go to a restaurant or shop without having to worry about poor access.
“This whole experience (of using the Welcome app) made my visit completely stress free by not having to find the reception desk myself or finding a member of staff to ask for assistance. It just felt so liberating being able to go and enjoy my lunch with absolutely no access barriers or worries whatsoever.” Jonathan – user
“The Welcome app worked flawlessly. There was no fuss or embarrassing public attention. I’m confident that the Welcome app had done its job. The staff were aware of my presence and acted accordingly, treating me the same as everyone else but at the same time being aware of my physical condition.” Dave – user
Do you feel having a virtual experience attached to a venues access information would be beneficial for user to know how to navigate around?
As we cater for many forms of disabilities, creating the right type of virtual experience would be tricky and requires much research and testing as not to exclude anyone. But as the app develops, this might be something worth exploring in the future.
What are the future plans to expand the Welcome app?
Having launched now in the UK and Ireland, we are focused on these markets currently but we are increasingly being contacted by people across the globe who are looking for us to expand the service globally. So in the future we will be looking at how we can expand our services internationally to help more people with disabilities around the world get the customer experiences they deserve.