A new mobile phone “app” is making it easier for disabled people in search of a stylish – and accessible – venue for a night out on the town.
Fiona Jarvis has been running her Blue Badge Style website since 2007, providing information on bars, restaurants, shops, cafes and theatres for “stylish, discerning people with mobility issues”.
Venues reviewed on the site are scored on access, facilities and style using the site’s three-ticks rating system.
But frustrated at the website’s small audience, Jarvis decided a mobile phone application would boost the size of her online community.
Intrigued by the idea, software experts Stuxbot and University College London’s centre for entrepreneurship developed a Blue Badge Style (BBS) app for her on a pro bono basis.
Disabled people can now use the app to find their nearest venue, read its reviews, check its BBS rating and obtain directions.
Since the app was released this summer, the number of visitors to the website has risen from a few hundred a month to 7,000 in October.
Jarvis has quit her job, ploughed her savings into the business, and is now working on BBS full-time and unpaid. She also received substantial investment from two friends.
The app received its official launch this week at Lounge Lover, a stylish – and accessible – bar in London’s Shoreditch.
Among those showing support for the new app was Paralympian Sophie Christiansen, who won three equestrian gold medals at this summer’s games in London.
She said: “I love going out with my friends and quite often I get to venues which are not accessible.”
She uses a wheelchair but can also walk, so although she can cope if the venue has stairs, her friends often have to carry her wheelchair up the steps for her.
She said: “This means I have to rely on their goodwill and I don’t want to have to do that.”
Jarvis, a wheelchair-user for nearly 20 years, said she wanted to create a community of people “for whom style and disability are not mutually exclusive”.
She said: “Just because you’re disabled, doesn’t mean you don’t want to go somewhere trendy.
“The Blue Badge Style app means that people with limited mobility, and equally importantly their friends, don’t have to be surprised or embarrassed by a lack of accessibility or facilities at a cool venue.”
She added: “We believe that decreased mobility need not stop you from enjoying a stylish life.”
The app is free to download for iPhone, iPad and Android devices, with a BlackBerry version to follow soon.