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  • Writer's pictureFraser Urquhart Media

Disabled App Wheels In Support From Disability Power 100’s Martyn Sibley

A campaign led by a trio of disabled Leicestershire tech-entrepreneurs received a major boost today with the announcement that Martyn Sibley, the creator of Disability Horizons magazine, Accomable, and one of the Disability Power 100 list’s ‘Most Influential Disabled People’, is to join the board of the fledgling app, which has aims to share knowledge within the disabled community and improve accessibility for all wheelchair users.

Sibley’s appointment and addition to the board of the CIC could be a game-changer in terms of credibly – and quickly – accessing the disability community, given his media profile thanks, in no small part, to his involvement as co-creator of the hugely successful Accomable platform, which was recently the subject of a high profile acquisition by Airbnb.

It is also very timely as venues and city centre management teams strive to rebuild and restore our major cities after months of lockdown, seeking ways to not only stand out, but create a climate of accessibility for all.

The app, Access Rating, which is a Community Interest Company (CIC), aims to encourage equal accessibility by empowering both users and venues alike by listing and independently reviewing which of our city and county businesses are truly accessible to those with mobility needs. Fundamental to the app is the unique ability for users to post reviews and comments and offer ratings about venues they have visited and experiences they have had.

Developed to act like a Trustpilot for the disabled traveller, the aim is for the app to create a real-life, real-time knowledge bank for disabled users by disabled users – and to, ultimately, make life easier, as the more users get involved and post their reviews, the more that knowledge multiplies, for the greater good.

It is hoped that this bank of experiences will then empower business operators to make positive changes, helping them overcome obstacles often unseen by more able-bodied individuals – be that as seemingly simple as drop kerbs, accessible lifts, or suitable toilet facilities. Access Rating’s slogan is: “The power to improve disabled access, one rating at a time”.

Free to download and easy to post reviews, the app has been founded and developed over lockdown by a trio of Leicestershire-based entrepreneurs – all with their own personal mobility needs: Mark Esho – an award winning entrepreneur and number one ranking author; Richard Copson and Jignesh Vaidya.

The announcement of Martyn Sibley acting in this ambassadorial role is pivotal in the success of the app’s successful roll-out. Martyn is a life-long wheelchair user himself and is a hugely respected figure in the wheelchair community. He has worked across the sector’s main disability charities and, more recently, launched Disability Horizons magazine and, which connects brands to disabled consumers via Influencer and social marketing. Listed as one of the 100 most influential disabled people in the Power 100, Sibley recently sold his Accomable platform to Airbnb in a deal that will see the portal list the accessibility credentials of accommodation across the world and make disabled-friendly travel easier. The affinity with the Access Rating app is clear to see.

Martyn comments; “I think Access Rating solves a really important need. As a wheelchair user myself, I think it’s obvious the barriers I’ve faced around not knowing if I can get in to a venue, right through to not knowing if there is an accessible toilet I can use, amongst other things. All these kinds of factors have been big issues over the years, but I think Access Rating is going to be able to help that”.

At the same time as empowering the disabled community, it is hoped that the review function of the app – alongside direct outreach from the Access Rating team – will encourage more business owners to improve their accessibility for disabled customers. And there is a clear financial, as well as moral, reason for doing so: the collective spending power and influence of the disabled community is called the ‘purple pound’. It is estimated that one in five working adults have a disability in the UK and there are 13.3 million disabled people in the UK. These households have a spending power of over £249 billion – and that is growing, as more people are given greater knowledge, visibility and access – thanks to apps like Access Rating.

Together, the foursome have big plans for the future of the app with a national roll-out on the cards, heightened user features being developed at pace and a future rating scheme to be visibly introduced to venues across the country – much like the hygiene rating sticker.

Whilst lockdown and enforced shielding has allowed the creation of the app, with venues reopening and life starting to get back to a new normal, the app’s future development and success does hinge on the disabled public getting involved and adding their real life reviews.

Martyn comments; “I’m confident that the disabled community will join me in showing their support to the Access Rating app. They can do this by downloading the free app and sharing their venue experiences for the benefit of others in the community. Together, we can not only make a difference but get our voices heard”.

The app can be downloaded, free of charge, from Apple and Android Stores – search Access Rating (Disabled Access Review App).

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