Reviewing the Sociability App - Helping disabled people find accessible places
Ben reviews the Sociability app, a concept designed to help disabled people find accessible places.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that any need you can describe, must be in want of an app.
In this case, the need is finding places that are accessible for people with disabilities or mobility issues, so that they and their friends can interact with the world in a way that’s safer, more fun and as fulfilling as possible. No matter how well-intentioned public service providers may be, from the incredibly thoughtful to psychopathically thoughtless, people should be able to lead rich, interesting lives, regardless of whether or not they’re suffering from a disability or rare disease.
‘Sociability’ is one possible solution to this problem. Marketed as being ‘for disabled people by disabled people’, Sociability is available as a free app on both Apple and Android devices. The app enables users to browse and locate accessible places to visit, such as cafés, sandwich shops, restaurants or bars. Users can also upload pictures of venues, tag them and leave reviews to provide their own appraisal of how easy a place is to access.
In the app, the accessibility of a location is assessed in terms of several sections, including:
Entrances and exits (steps, handrails, ramps, etc.)
Indoor and outdoor areas (looking at seating, space, floor conditions, etc.)
Toilet facilities (turning space, baby changing facilities, provision for gender neutral users, etc.)
Visual, hearing and sensory considerations (tactile indicators, dedicated sensory accommodations, clear signage, etc.)
Even if you don’t have mobility issues yourself, Sociability can be a really useful tool to ensure that everyone’s friends, relatives, colleagues and partners are able to meet up, without worrying about the difficulty, inconvenience, embarrassment or possibly even danger of gaining access.
This might sound like a trivial concern to some people, but it only takes a steep flight of steps, some narrow corridors or a patch of uneven flooring for a potentially fun social event to feel more like an episode of Total Wipeout!
For anyone with limited movement, whether they are elderly, wheelchair bound or have severe motor disabilities, it can sometimes be difficult to find social venues that are fully accessible. If the business owner or manager hasn’t considered these kinds of circumstances, it can make potential customers feel excluded, and that’s the last thing anyone wants! In this sense, Sociability is one way for companies to assess how well they are providing for the many specific needs of their customers and then to get feedback directly from those same people. This kind of feedback loop can be invaluable for creating positive, accessible social spaces for all people to enjoy, which is more important than ever in the post-lockdown world.
Sociability is a great concept that already shows potential. I’m quite excited about the ability to create a crowd-sourced social service that gives people valuable insights into places to go. That’s good for issues of isolation, good for safety, good for businesses… but unfortunately bad for my wallet and my waistline!
Good things about the app:
The concept is based around providing free, functional information to users and businesses
The app preloads accessibility settings after installation, so you don’t have to go looking for settings which are already hard to do—why don’t more apps do this?
Allows community contribution to build a living database of genuinely useful information that can be updated when somewhere gets better (or worse!)
Integrated map can give you an idea of places that you hadn’t considered
Attractive and easy-to-use UI, with QR code integration.
Not so good:
Requires consistent internet access (not guaranteed out here in the sticks!)
The map can be a bit glitchy
The search function does not have many customisation options and can be rather sluggish to respond
There are currently not many users, so reviews and tags can be pretty limited outside cities (although this is changing as more users join the community).
Overall, Sociability is a promising idea that has the potential to provide a really useful service that could help lots of different people. However, until the app gets adopted by a critical mass of users who start uploading information about businesses in their area, it will remain just that – a good idea. Why not take a look yourself and see if you want to upload some reviews where you are?