What impact are you looking to make with Access Earth?
Matt: To impact how people with disabilities travel. It can be difficult to get an equal experience if you’re looking for a hotel, or tourist attraction or booking a restaurant. So you either have to ring up the place and hope they’ve the info to tell you. You have to work to find the information that should be freely available. And this is where we hope to make huge impact in independent travel.
Ryan: It’s also awakening businesses attention to the idea of making travel more accessible to everybody else. To make them ask ‘how can we make ourselves more accessible?’ “and how easy is it for us to do that’?.
Ryan: There isn’t a platform that allows business that are accessible to show that they are and to promote themselves to that market place.
What’s the vision?
Matt:To make the travel experience equal.
What inspired you to set up Access Earth?
Matt: I went to London back in 2012 getting to the hotel was hard, only 10% of the Underground is accessible. And the hotel had said they were accessible but there were three steps up to it and no ramp, and a narrow door.
I said ok, well, I’ve had enough of this.
I had been inter railing. And it’s very difficult to find a hostel that is accessible. My mum told me I should start a blog and tell people about it!
When I started the HDIP in Maynooth last year I got the idea of using these skills to do something about this issue.
Entrepreneurship & tech as facilitators of impact – could there be more focus on solving social problems?
Ryan: I think there could be. But there are startups out there that are doing this like companies like Food Cloud who are a startup that collects food waste from supermarkets and delivering it to hostels. So making use of the waste.
Matt: But it’s difficult for them to go viral. There’s a stereotype that if you’re in the disability sector or you’re doing it for social good then you’re a charity. And that can have certain connotations and a lot of the time the stereotypes are unjust. And a startup is seen as vibrant and quick and easy to move.
How are you gathering the information that will populate this map of accessibility?
Matt: One of the advantages of being out in the University, where we both went to, is that we can lean on classes and ask them to help us with data questions. And we have a couple of student groups both in Trinity and here in Maynooth that are helping us with researching criteria amongst our user groups or going out rating places. That’s where we are with Dublin.
About meeting at Inactus
I hadn’t really thought about the entrepreneurship side until I was introduced to Inactus, where I met Ryan. Until then it was just a project that could help people but it had no business backing. That’s where Ryan came on board.
Ryan: Inactus is a Social Entrepreneurship Society – empowering people through socially good initiatives and projects with entrepreneurial action. I got involved in that when I was doing my masters.
Matt came along in January and pitched the idea and after a week with Matt doing the Business Model Canvas I thought this is huge and this is actually going to make a difference. So to be a part of that is special in itself.
Sometimes it’s small changes that can make a difference especially for the middle ground of inaccessibility.
Matt: When we were researching hotels we found that some establishments would look inaccessible because they had a few steps but it turned out they had a ramp that they could take out. But you still had to call them up and say ‘hi, I’m outside’ when maybe all you’d need to do is press a button at the bottom of the steps.
Ryan: Some businesses that aren’t accessible are extremely apologetic about it. They’re listed buildings and they’re not going to get the planning permission but there are simple things that you can do to make it easier for some people.
Define your great life:
Ryan: (intake of breath) This is the best and hardest interview we’ve ever done! To be able to enjoy what you’re doing but realise that what you’re doing has an impact. And enjoy the journey.
Matt: Do what you’re passionate about. To live life with no regrets