Accessibility App Could Be A Yelp For People With Disabilities

May 20, 2015

A new accessibility app called Compeer is currently being beta tested and may soon be able to help those with disabilities navigate cities more easily. Based in Missouri, the app is being tested in two cities in that state: St. Louis and Columbia.

Gabriella Garbero, a freelance film editor living in Columbia is a beta tester for the app.  She uses a power wheelchair to get around, and she has been rating businesses and streets on their accessibility for Compeer.

She said the sidewalks here make it challenging to get around. “Super uneven pavement.  It’s a lot worse here than where I’m from in St. Louis.”

Garbero rated the sidewalk accessibility of Britches, a clothing store, on Compeer. She gave the pavement option on the app a bad review.

Gabriella Garbero gives Britches Clothing a red "NO" for even pavement on Compeer, in Columbia, Mo. She said the app's design makes it easy for her make selections.
Credit Jack Howard / KBIA

“Even pavement - uh, I'd say no,” she said. “The business has a small lip outside the door.”

The app also allows users to judge music volume or lighting that may make some businesses less accessible for people who have vision or hearing-related disabilities.

Compeer beta tester Genevieve Conti said she uses the app to make sure her boyfriend’s grandmother can go out to dinner with them.

“Some of my favorite restaurants really love mood lighting. And that’s good for dates, but bad for people who don’t have 20/20 vision,” she said.

Conti said she knows which businesses her boyfriend’s 95-year-old grandmother can access easily because of reviews from other Compeer users.

Compeer’s designer, Emily Stewart, said apps you can install on your phone can respond to accessibility preferences you set on your phone, like larger type, that websites can’t. It just takes a little more work.

“If the developer puts in the extra bit, then the rest of that type will respond to that - and get larger,” Stewart said. “That’s a clear advantage over the web because - to my knowledge - websites really can’t respond to that without their own system."

Stewart said she has also followed Garbero’s suggestions on the design.

For instance, in response to Garbero’s feedback, Compeer now has a button-less option on its interface. So no tiny navigational buttons or home buttons if those are difficult for you to use. Instead a user can just swipe their finger across the screen to navigate between pages. 

Compeer is planning to launch for iPhone in July.