In a first, a Delhi-based start- up has launched a new smartphone app that can help people with special needs to find disabled-friendly restaurants, tourist locations and other public places across India. The app, called BillionAbles, is Indias first lifestyle app for persons with disabilities and special needs, according to its founder Sameer Garg. Forty-two-year old Garg was left with paralysed lower limbs after he suffered a spinal cord injury at the age of 19.
“Over the years, I have struggled to find an inclusive environment – whether it is workplace or public place,” Garg told PTI. “Currently, in India, no centralised online platform provides information about accessibility of places or services,” he said. People with disabilities have to search for each and every service through referrals or search engines. They then need to confirm the accessibility of the place through phone calls or e-mails.
“Even after that, sometimes the information provided is not accurate as communicated,” Garg said. “Currently, lot of organisations are working in India which provide skill-based training, conduct accessible tours, run accessible cabs, and provide facilities like ramps and washrooms, but this information is not compiled and listed anywhere,” he said. The app was conceptualised by Garg and developed by co- founder Deepak Kumar, 24, who is a student of engineering at Kurukshetra University in Haryana.
It lists accessible venues and services under various categories including restaurants, hotels, malls, wellness centres, events and parking spaces. The user can filter the search results on the basis of features such as step-free access, braille and sign language availability, gluten-free food and eating aids. The results open up in list as well as map view. The app is accessible for persons with varied disabilities. For instance, visually impaired people can use the app through its text to speech and speech to text feature.
The contrast or colour theme of the app can be changed for people who suffer from partial vision or colour blindness. All videos uploaded will be communicated in sign language as well as sub titles for ease to deaf people. Smart dictionary feature is provided for users with limited mobility in their hands, Garg said. The app is supported by a crowd-sourced platform which enables any user to add new places or services. The listings are open for ratings and reviews by other users.
The BillionAbles team also conducts verification of the listings on the app by conducting access audits in a phase wise manner. “Currently, we have over 150 verified listings from Delhi NCR, Goa and Rajasthan,” Garg said. The team will also conduct regular AccessHunt events, the first of which is scheduled to take place on July 30 at Connaught Place in New Delhi. During the event, volunteers will break out in groups to map accessibility at various venues and upload the places and services that they have found.
The app was released on Google Play store earlier this month and is available free of cost.