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myUDAAN aims to bring accessibility, independence to the doorstep of people with disabilities

Mumbai entrepreneur Ravindra Singh is always on the move. Singh has a marketing business, a role that requires daily travel, often to unfamiliar locations. One challenge he always comes up against is accessibility, be it with buildings, elevators, public toilets or ATMs. As a person with post-polio paralysis from birth, this is a major concern. Singh started thinking about ways to change this.

That was the genesis of my UDAAN, a mobile application that aims to help people with disabilities and the elderly plan their travel in advance and complete it with minimal headache.

I started a marketing business in 2010 and when I started going for meetings, I discovered just how inaccessible most places are. I realized there was a need for a service so people could be informed whether or not a place is accessible before they set out. - Ravindra Singh, myUDAAN

Singh has launched the service in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai, where 2,000 places have been mapped. He has a team of volunteers on the ground who conduct accessibility checks and update the app.

"Apart from volunteers, we plan to coordinate with local NGOs to build and update the database. All places will not be fully accessible, the idea is to make the information regarding accessibility available so people can decide the assistance they need and make plans", says Singh.

There are other services listed on the myUDAAN website and app as well. Users can book a cab, ask for an assistant as well as source information regarding doctors and policies for people with disabilities and the elderly.

As word spreads, Singh hopes to build a larger team of volunteers and eventually have a database for the whole country. "All that people have to do is download the app and update information regarding places they have been to", he says. "This is also a way to build awareness about inclusion".

The right step

Singh has his heart in the right place and there is certainly a need for such a service, feels Danesh Kanagaraj, a Mumbai-based trainer, who travels extensively.

"Like every person with a physical impairment, I find commuting in public transport a challenge", says Kanagraj. "If I opt for a private car like Ola or Uber, the price is 15 times higher. Hotels and offices are extremely inaccessible due to stairs or the flooring".

He likes the idea of the escort facility that myUDAAN offers. "This will be extremely useful in public places for a person with disability. Often times we don't have the right information about infrastructure accessibility, so it would be highly useful to navigate if we know the details before visiting a place. I shall definitely be using an app like myUDAAN frequently as I like to travel extensively".

Jasmina Khanna, a Mumbai-based working professional, welcomes the idea but has concerns about the challenges associated with conducting accessibility checks.

"In myUDAAN, the validity is through word of mouth", points out Khanna a wheelchair user, who recently conducted an accessibility audit in a Mumbai ward.

"I have heard of such apps used abroad earlier. However, this app depends on volunteers to provide inputs on accessible places. Based on my experience on accessibility audits you cannot to rely on volunteers inputs as they might not able to give full information on to what extent that particular place is accessible for people with different disabilities", she cautions.

Khanna lists the many challenges that need to be looked at. "A place may have ramps but not accessible washrooms. Or a ramp may be there, but not built properly. Or a lift maybe there, but not accessible for a visually impaired person".

Clearly there will be challenges but myUDAAN is an idea whose time has come. People with disabilities in India are actively looking for ways and means to live and travel independently, and it is great to see solutions emerging that are offering them ways to do that.

You can download the app from this link - http://bit.ly/myudaanaap.

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