Student Matt Pierri said the idea came about as a combination of his experiences as a wheelchair user in the city and conversations with friends, who described struggling to find information on venue accessibility as a “day-to-day challenge”.
Confusing language and a lack of consistency makes it difficult for people with access needs to pick a venue, including pubs, he said.
Pierri hopes the app SociAbility will raise awareness of accessibility as a “fluid concept”, and change the way businesses think about communicating all aspects of their venues.
It works as a collation of user-generated content with information on features like doorways and step-free access.
Pierri explained: “Accessibility is very variable and actually often the terminology of 'accessible or 'inaccessible' is not really helpful to people.
Facts 'n' stats
86% of respondents to accessibility charity Euan's Guide said they have found disabled access information on a venue’s website to be misleading.
88% said they were more likely to visit somewhere new if they could find relevant access information about the venue.
53% of respondents said they avoid somewhere if a venue has not shared its access information.
62% said they would phone or email the venue to check accessibility.
“Often people will get told a place is accessible but when they get there, they realise it is not because they need certain things – their chair is too wide for a door, for example. Or the opposite will happen and actually when they get there they think ‘ah if I had known in advance I could have managed this or come with a friend to help me’.”
Pubs were considered the most inaccessible type of venue, even above castles, in research from charity Euan’s Guide earlier this year.
Its annual survey asked 903 disabled people, their families and friends for their opinions on accessibility at public venues.
Almost four in 10 respondents said pubs typically had poor access (38%), with not being able to get into or around a venue and a lack of a suitable accessible toilet cited as the most common issues.
A change in culture is needed, according to Pierri.
He explained: “Much more helpful than having a label of 'inaccessible/accessible' is just the information that people need to make a decision for themselves.
“We are trying to really build a culture around improving access and that's a lot easier than people think but they don't have ways to tackle that or people to help with it. That's what this information is hoping to shed a bit of light on and to raise awareness of this issue.”
SociAbility seeks to standardise how this information is presented.
“There is not a lot of consistency so the place you want to go to might have some information on their website, it may be even be relevant too but if you visit another premises's website that all changes," Pierri said.
The app will launch in Oxford on Tuesday 11 June, with plans to expand to other cities in the future.