Dom Hyams is the communications director at Grid Smarter Cities and communications director at assist-Mi, an app that gives disabled people access to assistance when they’re the go.
Grid Smarter Cities joined Plexal’s OpenDoor accelerator to develop and scale ADAPT (Assistance for Disabled Air Passenger Travel): an app aimed at making it easier for disabled people to navigate through airports. People can access information or share their requirements in advance as well as request assistance in real time by chatting with staff or raising an alert.
Just as the programme kicks off, we caught up with Dom to learn more about the solution and what the company wants to get out of OpenDoor.
Where did the idea for the app came from?
We realised that our existing assist-Mi solution could revolutionise air travel for millions of disabled passengers. Lots of disabled people, including myself, have had many stressful experiences when flying. One instance that comes to mind was when my £22,000 electric wheelchair was destroyed when I was flying to Zurich with my girlfriend.
My wheelchair was supposed to be waiting for me at the aircraft door when I landed but the staff on the ground couldn’t find it. Eventually they told me it was on the way to the terminal, before finally informing me it had been damaged when it fell off the baggage trolley. The electrics failed, the wheels had buckled and the seat was broken: it was a write-off.
What did that mean for your trip?
Not having my customised wheelchair meant I couldn’t drive for 12 weeks and I had to temporarily use an airport wheelchair. I needed to be pushed around for the entire trip. Like many people, my electric wheelchair is effectively my legs and my independence. Without it, I suddenly became totally dependent on other people.
You hear stories like this time and again, so it’s no surprise that disabled people feel anxious about travelling by air and many of them decide not to bother. That’s what ADAPT aims to address. We want disabled people to feel more confident when they travel so they trust the system will work and feel empowered to explore the world without unnecessary stress.
“Like many people, my electric wheelchair is effectively my legs and my independence.
Without it, I suddenly became totally dependent on other people.”
What are you hoping to get out of being part of our OpenDoor accelerator?
We joined OpenDoor to build out the commercial strategy for ADAPT. We’ve got an minimum viable product that we know there’s demand for, and now we need to work with key stakeholders to identify the most efficient way to get to market so that people can benefit from it as quickly as possible.
There are a few routes we could take. We want to work with airports (and we’ve already done a trial with one of the country’s biggest airports) but working directly with assistance providers could also enable us to get our technology used more widely.
We also want to connect with investors because we’re looking to develop the solution further before releasing it and make sure clients can integrate it into their existing systems even more easily.”