An Airbnb-style platform for Disabled travelers, and a company that teaches blind people the sense of touch each won a $ 15,000 award for entrepreneurs solving access problems.
Michael Lloyd, who lives in Tauranga, is blind and has Parkinson’s disease, uses his Grant from the Possibility Fund to get his Accommodationz business off the ground.
Lloyd moved from Auckland last year after the first Covid-19 lockdown to open a bed & breakfast with his partner, who is also blind.
He realized that there was a big gap in the market for Accommodation for people with access needs, hosted by “People Who Understand”.
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The potential size of the access tourism market is considerable, but a lack of suitable accommodation makes it difficult for many people to travel, he said.
“A lot of people think it’s just extra work because I’m in a wheelchair or have a guide dog.”
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Tauranga-based Michael Lloyd says there is a huge void in the market for accommodation for people with access needs.
His platform would offer accommodations so people could be themselves, enjoy their vacation, and not worry. Lloyd hoped to have the website up and running by April next year.
He had learned a lot while running his own lodging business.
“A lot of people think it’s pretty unique, the response has been very, very positive. I suppose people think, well, some blind people who run a BnB, their first answer is “is that possible?”.
“Well, it’s obviously possible because it happens.”
On the website, people with access needs would help other people in the same situation instead of asking for help from outside the community.
“It’s more about building it yourself, being proud of who you are and what you know and what you are capable of, and sharing that with others.”
Michael Lloyd wanted to offer places where people could be themselves, enjoy their vacation and not worry.
The winners Chantelle Griffiths, David Seevaratnam and Anne Niulesa wanted to help blind people master their sense of touch and therefore developed the Tactile and Technology Literacy Center.
Griffiths, a braille teacher, met Seevaratnam and Niulesa during a class.
“Our idea is to bring the sense of touch to life,” said Griffiths. “It’s about teaching people to use their sense of touch in ways that are currently not possible in Aotearoa.”
Touch was an important way for blind people to access and understand the world around them, but there were insufficient resources and insufficient understanding of people’s needs.
“There are a lot of concepts that we cannot teach right now, such as concepts like depth. You can’t give someone a tactile diagram, just like raised lines on one side, and make them understand the concept of depth, like a cube.
“While someone with a vision could look at a 3D object and see it because it has depth, perspective and scale. We can’t do that at the moment. “
The group also hoped to create tactile resources alongside books and other items that have already been produced to meet user needs.
“We think of the few everyday resources that people would use to do what they want to do in life,” said Griffiths.
“So if someone correctly said that I really want to know the menu for this restaurant near my work, we can then get in touch with these companies.”
Covid locks were difficult because they removed the ability to use touch in learning.
“In general, you teach people things personally and you can feel a diagram, but we couldn’t, so we had to develop a whole new way of conveying and teaching information. That’s one of the main drivers of what we’re doing here, this new way of thinking about the system, ”Griffiths said.
Chantelle Griffiths, David Seevaratnam and Anne Niulesa founded the Center for Tactile Technology and Literacy.
Seevaratnam and Niulesa were musicians and had to learn to read music and to read and write in Braille after they lost their eyesight.
“When people think about using Braille or tactile writing, all they think about is reading and writing, but there’s a whole different world in terms of music, math and foreign languages that is ignored,” Griffiths said.
“Especially with our Māori and Pacific Island communities, there isn’t much engagement in learning this way, and that’s simply because the resource isn’t there and the teaching methods really need to take into account both the cultural aspect and the learning aspect. “
The Possibility Fund, managed by Perpetual Guardian, awarded a first grant of $ 30,000 to kiwi access entrepreneur Arash Tayebi, CEO of Kara Technologies, which uses AI and animated digital characters to translate content into sign language.
The fund was founded in 2020 with seed funding of $ 150,000 from Access entrepreneur Minnie Baragwanath and $ 180,000 from Alice and Stan Flavell.