This app makes it easy to find wheelchair-friendly restaurants & coffee shops (and downvote inaccessible shops)

Three photos. Left: a map on the Roll Mobility app, displaying yellow, green, and red icons in the Denver area. Center: A screenshot of a TikTok video, showing a person using a wheelchair and trying to enter a building with a large step. Right: A screenshot of a review of Roast Coffee in Denver, Colorado on the Roll Mobility app.

Once you become attuned to how inaccessible the world is around you, you notice a lot of little things.

Maybe there are no curb cuts in your area, leaving people who use wheelchairs or parents with strollers to take a risky leap into the street, or go out of their way to find a safe way to move around.

Perhaps you notice how the elevator in your office building is always out of order, and those who can’t use the stairs are left to fend for themselves.

The print on a restaurant’s menu is too small, or the bathroom door to the accessible stall doesn’t lock all the way, or American Sign Language interpretation is nowhere to be found.

The developers behind the app Roll Mobility were all too familiar with these everyday concerns.

A screenshot of a TikTok video showing a person in a wheelchair outside of a restaurant. The video says "Because EVERYONE benefits from inclusive design"
Photo courtesy of Roll Mobility/TikTok

So, they decided to put the power back in the hands of disabled folks.

“Designed specifically for wheelchair users and individuals with accessibility issues, Roll Mobility takes the guesswork out of venturing into public spaces,” a press release for the app shares.

The app — which is free to download for both Apple and Android devices — launched in February of 2023 and is gaining momentum among people with disabilities.

With a community-based approach, users are able to search for a location, and read crowd-sourced reviews about that place’s accessibility information.

This includes essential information about features like ramps, elevators, accessible restrooms, parking spaces, and more. 

A screenshot of a map in the Wheel Mobility app, which displays locations in the Denver area
Photo courtesy of Roll Mobility

Essentially: It’s Yelp for disabled community members. 

“By leveraging the collective knowledge of its user community, this app creates a reliable and comprehensive database of accessible establishments in the local area, ensuring that individuals can make informed decisions about where to go and what to expect,” Roll Mobility’s website explains.

The app has a rating scale that includes data for overall accessibility and bathroom accessibility about a given space. Using a familiar red-yellow-green criteria, users can easily anticipate what kind of accommodations they might have access to — or whether they will be unable to navigate a space.

Roll Mobility's green-yellow-and red rating scale. Green- Fully Accessible. This space is fully wheelchair accessible. Wheelchair users can easily navigate the space without obstacles or barriers. Yellow - mostly accessible. This space is generally wheelchair accessible, but some obstacles or barriers may still exist, providing some invoncenience for wheelchair users. Red- not accessible. This space is not wheelchair accessible due to physical barriers or obstacles that prevent wheelchair users from entering or navigating through the space.
Photo courtesy of Roll Mobility

These scores are generated when users answer a series of questions about a location on the app, noting the absence or presence of key accessibility features. Users can also document additional information, comments, photos, and feedback for every entry.

Although all public places are supposed to meet a certain standard of accessibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act, many establishments either do not prioritize accessibility or are exempt from the ADA due to “grandfathering clauses.” 

“This leaves individuals who utilize wheelchairs uncertain about whether or not they can participate in certain activities, making planning outings a daunting and frustrating task,” Roll Mobility’s press release states.

With an estimated 12% of U.S. adults facing mobility disabilities, this leaves a staggering number of the population struggling to navigate daily life. 

After a little over a year on the market, Roll Mobility serves more than 1,000 users worldwide and highlights over 35 Adaptive Programs across the U.S. 

While the app has become a great resource among disabled individuals, it also aims to raise awareness among able-bodied allies about “what makes a space fully inclusive.” 

Two screenshots of the Roll Mobility app, displaying a review page for Bao Brewhouse and Sullivan Scrap Kitchen in Denver, Colorado
Two examples of review pages on the Roll Mobility app

App creators even encourage able-bodied people to download the app to help document locations to help bridge the information gap for the users who need it most.

“Roll Mobility is for everyone. All people benefit from accessible design, and our app is designed to teach anyone how to be a reliable accessibility rater,” one team member said in a recent TikTok video. “One of our favorite things about the app is its ability to raise social awareness around disability and accessible design altogether.”

It really is for everyone — the app is available worldwide to serve as a resource for folks no matter where they are.

But it takes time and community to gather the information necessary to make the app the best it can be.

The caption under the same TikTok video sums it up: “While we can’t overcome social barriers overnight, we can at least catalog and share the places where we know we are welcome.”

Header images courtesy of Roll Mobility/TikTok

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May 15, 2024 2:14 PM
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