The startup’s goal is to enable people with disabilities to easily rate and review businesses based on their accessibility. This helps people with disabilities and their caretakers find businesses that prioritize accessibility while encouraging others to improve their accommodations.
WheelChariot co-founder Gabriel Jones and Tori Stopford, chief marketing officer, came up with the idea of the company while doing a project for a marketing consulting class at Georgia Tech. While helping his mom take care of his grandparents, Jones previously witnessed the difficulty of businesses being widely inaccessible to their needs.
“As someone without a disability, you don’t really notice the inaccessibility of the world.” Jones said. “But as soon as we started taking them places, my grandmother couldn’t get up the ramp at the doctor’s office because it was too steep, or my grandfather had a hard time getting into the door at his favorite restaurant. So I had this idea of this platform where people could rate businesses on accessibility and hold them accountable.”
The group soon decided to turn their WheelChariot idea into their own company, launching a platform that allows any person to rate a business on accessibility in more than 40 points based on the amount of different accommodations. Despite no firsthand experience with the difficulties that those in the disability community face, the team at WheelChariot believes they have found a role to express advocacy as a middle ground for disability community advocates and businesses to interact.
“We’re more so trying to be a bullhorn for advocates,” said Jones. “We’re advocates to a degree, but we’re really hoping to be the forum for the big voices to put a voice to their stories.”
WheelChariot’s team is also hoping the platform can help advocate for a new standard of accessibility. With the 33rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act’s (ADA) in July, there is a lot the ADA did for the disability community that should be celebrated.
However, as times have changed, many people believe the ADA is outdated in certain ways. WheelChariot uses a 1-5 rating scale, with 3 representing average ADA standards. Through WheelChariot, the group is hoping to help create a “gold standard of accessibility” at businesses which further elevates standards for accessibility instead of meeting them. In fact, Jones and Stopford hope WheelChariot can eventually take a step back because of the strong connection they hope to develop between the disability community and their local businesses.
“That’s really the goal, that the first business sees this and it starts this cascading effect of more businesses making the necessary fixes, so that our work is done. The standards are set and really we become ‘irrelevant,’” Jones said.
While businesses are important connections, WheelChariot’s first focus is on the disability community and how to best serve their needs. By focusing on holding themselves to the same standards as businesses, WheelChariot’s team has been able to receive better feedback from those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, helping them connect and advocate more effectively in a modern world.