Neatebox founder Gavin Neate spent 18 years working with guide dogs and used that experience to create the ‘Welcome’ app – which he has been able to embark on after securing £35,000 of funding. The new app is similar to the ‘Button’ app that he created in 2014 to assist blind and disabled people at pedestrian crossings.
As a result of a Scottish Edge funding award, which supports homegrown entrepreneurial talent, he will launch Welcome at the Falkirk Wheel on Thursday.
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Organisations including Royal Bank of Scotland, Edinburgh Airport, Hilton Double Trees Hotels and Forth Valley Sensory Centre are also taking part in the launch. The app provides information on venues with five top tips relevant to disabled visitors.
Users will be able to download the Welcome app for free, with venues paying a monthly subscription to use the service.
The firm’s Button app, which is being installed at pedestrian crossings in Largs this week, has just been shortlisted for the National Transport Awards, while IT services multinational Atos has signed up the company as a preferred supplier for the Welcome app.
Neate said he has already had interest from organisations across the UK and hopes his creation will be used by many places to assist blind and disabled users.
He said: “I noticed when I worked for Guide Dogs for the Blind that visually impaired people would very seldom get the service you or I would take for granted.
“After doing the pedestrian crossings, I realised I could alert customer services when the person hits a ‘geofence’ that would announce they were about to arrive and a beacon at the door would let them know they had arrived. Nobody has done this, it’s massive.
“For customer advisors at any of the venues they will know everything about the visitor and how to interact with them. The potential is huge, every single business could have this installed.
“People can be quite anxious when meeting a disabled person for the first time. First impressions count.”
Gavin liaised with Guide Dogs, RNIB and Scope when designing the app, which he says will “break down barriers”. He added: “This could be a massive help to disabled people and also to customer service teams.”
Neatebox is based in the centre of Edinburgh, creating products that improve the quality of life for specific users. While it currently has four staff, Neate believes its headcount will expand with the additional funding.
He said: “A third of the funding we got it will go towards developing the product, a third towards operational costs and a third to marketing.
“We hope to expand to English-speaking countries first, like Australia and Ireland, but to start we have to show this works in the UK.
“Because we are doing low cost we would need hundreds of venues on board. It’s taken us a while to get here – it was only last year I took on people to work with me.”