Victorian aged and disability care provider, Villa Maria, developed an award winning app, Out & About – Accessing your community, that enables people to find accessible venues and events across Melbourne and regional Victoria with the touch of a finger.
Mr Ferguson, who has Multiple Sclerosis (MS), knows all too well the challenges people with a disability face when planning a day out.
As his MS has developed, so too has his focus on accessibility. Now, he realises how important such features are – and yet how many places don’t have them.
“I never thought about accessibility when I was younger, I just thought it was a good idea. There were ramps, but it never occurred to me I might need one,” he says.
“Like most people I was all in favour of it but completely unaware of whether it existed in a venue or not.”
Designed to help people with disabilities and mobility limitations, as well as assisting families and carers plan a day out, users can search for a venue or event by location, accessibility feature or venue type before they leave home or while on the go.
Accessibility features include, for example, wheelchair accessible toilets, ramps, hearing loops, accessible parking, handrails and flat walking tracks. Venues are as diverse as parks and beaches, tourist attractions, restaurants, theatres and accommodation.
As the app is community powered, users can suggest venues and events for inclusion and review them, informing other users about the accessibility features of the places and events listed.
“I’m thrilled and delighted to be an Out & About ambassador. It feels like a very useful role where I can highlight the positive, active side of having a disability,” Mr Ferguson says.
“Everybody loves having something to do and I’m loving being an ambassador that can help people find a suitable place to go or event to attend.
“All someone with a disability wants is for their day out to be manageable. They don’t need it to be perfectly easy, but they just need to know they can go to a business and get what they want with a minimum of fuss.”
Mr Ferguson says all organisations should think about accessibility and that being listed on the Out & About app is a way to get the message out that they are ‘disability friendly’.
“I certainly never knew how many people with disabilities there were until I started using a walking stick. Suddenly, I realised how many people were walking around with sticks or were in wheelchairs and how many people were visually impaired with assistance dogs,” he says.
“To me that’s a customer base. If I was running a restaurant or nightclub or cinema, whatever it might be, I’d be thinking of all those customers. The Out & About app is the perfect way to show how disability friendly a business is.”
More than 1,500 venues and 600 events have been listed on the app since it was launched for iPhone in December 2013. The app will be launched for Android in October.
The Out & About app and associated all abilities Family Fun Day won the Excellence in Improving Participation Award at the 2014 Victorian Disability Sector Awards.
Suggest a venue or event for inclusion or download the Out & About app for free from the iTunes store.