A caring place: digital connections

A smiling elderly woman wearing glasses is looking at a smartphone screen.
Published: 29/04/2019

A part of our work on town centre living and a caring place  we have gathered a series of blogs that on the ten principles of a caring placeIn this blog, Gavin Neate, Founder and CEO of Neatebox talks about innovative ways of connecting people to their places.

Principle 3 looks at Digital and Physical Connectivity. Pleasant walkable places supported by technology, services and community achieved by extending accessibility options and mobility services. Enabling walking choices through service design and spatial design, supported by innovation in the community, partnership and innovative mobility technologies and systems.

Digital connections

What is Neatebox and how did it come about as an idea?

Neatebox was initially just an investigation into whether a particular solution was possible.  As a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor, I was frustrated that pedestrian crossing buttons were seldom in the most optimum position to be used by visually impaired and other disabled pedestrians. It meant that every day I would need to help my clients find ways to circumnavigate poor design and implementation of current ‘solutions’. 

As more of my clients were attending guide dog training courses with mobile phones and other such portable tech it seemed that there must be a way of pressing the button with a mobile phone.  From here ‘Button By Neatebox’ was born and developed in order that people could press the crossing button automatically just by their proximity to it.

From this point, it was impossible not to come up with accessible tech-driven ideas to solve issues I had seen. I eventually left Guide Dogs to pursue them. ‘Welcome by Neatebox’ is our flagship product which recognises it’s hard to ensure all service staff are trained for every eventuality and informs and raises awareness of a disabled person’s needs before they walk through the door of any venue.

Staying connected

What does Neatebox do to support people in their communities to move around their neighbourhoods and stay better connected?

Fundamentally we believe that all people are and should be treated equally but beyond that, we believe that everyone has something to offer society and that to thrive this diversity must be embraced. 

Without mobility, assisted or independent, we might never have the chance to meet and learn from an amazing range of people and thereby miss out on discovering their skills and abilities. Neatebox products bring people together physically and emotionally and ensure that when we meet we do so with mutual understanding and respect.

What things (technologies, people, partners) are needed for your support service to work?

'Button’ is fairly straightforward and requires councils to install a small piece of hardware into pedestrian crossings.  This enables the crossing to be used by anyone who downloads our free app.

The Welcome Platform again uses an app alongside a web platform which venues can use to host visitors, and this can be used anywhere where there is customer service. As this is a new concept of customer service we have been working closely with potential partners to explain the need to improve their staff’s awareness of disabled people’s specific requirements.

We work with venues (partners), our app users and organisations (charities) who provide us with top tips with regards to interacting with people with specific conditions and disabilities.  Our most powerful weapon though is our connection to our app users.  It’s their feedback and evangelical promotion of their own experiences using our services which make all the difference.

Welcome App

How many towns/places/cities is it being used in?

“Welcome” was launched late 2017 and we now have venues across the UK including Glasgow, Edinburgh and London, along with a select number of venues across central Scotland.

Launching new services takes time and we are constantly reaching out to venues and location to use the platform. We work with our users to enable them to request where they want the app to be installed. 

Our view is that people shouldn’t just have to sit back and wait but rather be empowered to influence the services they wish to receive.  We do our very best to go where people want us.  If we receive a request for a small village shop or post office in the middle of nowhere we will do our best to get in touch and make this happen.

What are your plans for the future in terms of both wider reach and other ideas, apps and technologies?

As discussed the adoption of our solutions goes hand in hand with people’s desire to use them. We want people to be more vocal, we want them to be a part of the solution and we feel that in doing this we can promote not only their empowerment but also the wider community as well.

If a Local Authority or venue/premises is interested in becoming part of the ‘Welcome’ community how would they go about making this happen?

Firstly I would thank them for their vision and then I would prompt them to get in touch by taking a look at www.neatebox.com, follow us on social media or get in touch by writing to us at hello@neatebox.com

Header image credit: Georg Arthur Pflueger on Unsplash

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