Accessibility for all: Sarah’s app idea

sarah“People are afraid to go out because they’re struggling to do something. I want to make that not be the case. I want everyone to feel safe and comfortable.”

This is Sarah Wojcik, a junior from Monticello High School who decided to create an app to help those with physical disabilities.

The idea came to her after seeing her parents’ work as special education teachers. The function of her app would be to display the accessibility of restaurants, movie theaters, and other social hotspots in the form of a digital map.

By simply clicking the icon of a particular location, anyone can see its accommodations. Sarah’s goal is to make it easier for everyone to go out and have fun, regardless of disability.

Unfortunately, Wojcik’s road to designing her project, which she came up with during an independent study at her school, has been riddled with bumps and difficulties, primarily due to lack of cooperation from local facilities.

Wojcik reached out to over 20 locations, asking them to fill out a survey created by the National Center of Health, Physical Activity, and Disability. The questionnaire, entitled the “Community Health Inclusion Index,” asks about specific criteria to make sure of accessibility, such as wideness of doors, inclusion of ramps, and presence of handicap bathroom stalls.

It would make Sarah’s research much easier if she did not need to personally travel to each location and fill out the survey herself, but so far, only three places have responded to her.

She similarly faces problems with her limited knowledge of app design and feelings of disheartenment after not winning the TomTom Festival’s Social Innovation Challenge. However, none of these issues have caused her to give up. Wojcik is a girl doing the work of a whole team, but she possesses the tenacity and passion needed for this particular job.

“I didn’t realize how hard it would be, but I feel like I’m determined enough to get it done,” she tells me.

Her mission is less about creating a product than it is about informing the larger population about problems that often go unnoticed.

“I have the intention to educate people, not just make something,” she says when asked about her goal.

So, what can people do to help Wojcik create this app, which would benefit a demographic that’s frequently underserved? She needs people willing to travel to locations around Charlottesville and help fill out the aforementioned survey and those who understand app design, but more than anything else, she just wants to spread awareness.

The app will only achieve its mission if people know about it, so once it’s up and running, everyone should help get the word out.

Wojcik feels as though it will be easier to make progress during the summer, without some of the stress of being a high-schooler. Although the whole project is still in the planning phase, she is determined to make it a reality.

“I think about the barriers and struggles disabled people face every day and how to break them down,” she says.

Wojcik is currently working on a personal website, and planning out her next moves, so everyone should stay tuned in, since this idea may have monumental results in the near future.

Story by Tess Majors


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