iAccess Life is the ‘Yelp’ of accessibility
Founder and CEO Brandon Winfield explains how his crowdsourced rate-and-review app lets users with mobility issues scout out locale accessibility before they go
Brandon Winfield just wants to live his life, go where he wants to go, and not be hindered when he arrives. The 27-year-old is paralyzed from the waist down and has encountered all too many venues that can’t accommodate his wheelchair. His year-old app, iAccess Life, lets people with mobility issues leave and read user-generated reviews of where they can, or can’t, access. Users can search categories from bars to supermarkets to stadiums, filtered by location for ease of planning. Since the app’s launch in April 2019 (both on iOS and Android platforms), iAccess Life has rated close to 4,000 unique locations in over 45 states and 25 countries.
Winfield details how iAccess Life helps everyone access life.
WERE YOU ENTREPRENEURIAL BEFORE THIS VENTURE?
Not at all! I was a jock (laughs) and honestly never really thought about mobility issues until I got injured in a motocross accident at 14. And while I still raced go karts and traveled widely in my wheelchair later on, I still got frustrated by how much was inaccessible to me. I didn’t want to be a burden to the people I was traveling or hanging out with, and wondered why I didn’t have accessibility information at my fingertips to better plan ahead. Then the light bulb went off! I had no development or business background, so I got a business partner (Sayeed Mehrjerdian) to make it happen. I just knew there was a need to revolutionize accessibility.
DOESN’T THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT, CELEBRATING ITS 30TH YEAR, ENFORCE ACCESSIBILITY?
That law was put into place in 1990, so everything built before that was grandfathered in and not forced to retrofit for compliance. Even venues built after don’t always comply fully. My mobile app lets people “know before they go,” so they don’t need to arrive at a restaurant only to find out they can’t get up the stairs or into the bathroom.
“I wondered why I
didn’t have accessibility
information at my
fingertips to better plan
We use a star rating on four of the most important things: parking, entrance, interior space and the bathroom, with an area for openended comments. We encourage people to rate purely off their own experience, so others can learn from them. Our platform will also inspire venues to upgrade their accessibility. And if they don’t? We don’t need to go there.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
Communicating to people without disabilities that this is vital. Not just for us, but for everyone. Fifteen percent of the world’s population suffers from a disability, and anyone might have difficulty climbing steps down the road.
AND YOUR BIGGEST SUCCESS TO DATE?
We just brought on a third co-founder to launch a new initiative that’s an accessible business certification/disability inclusion training. We plan to release it to hospitality groups—hotels,
airlines and restaurants. Also, together with the Wheel With Me Foundation (WWMF), we’ve partnered with Purposity, an app that connects users with one-to-one needs of people living with spinal cord injuries (SCI). Users who sign up on Purposity receive alerts of needs for equipment to medical costs, which they fulfill right from there phone. With the ADA’s 30-year anniversary, we have much to celebrate but so much more to do to ensure true accessibility for all. The time is now to act.
Have you ever wanted to go to a restaurant, but you’re not sure if it’s possible? Not because you might not like the menu options, or because it might be booked out - but because there might not be a way for you to enter, or get to your table? iAccess is the perfect solution.