Flashlight is a platform that designs your inclusive traveling experience from planning to the end of the journeyfor wheelchair users.
There are about 3.3 million wheelchair users in the United States, and the number is increasing approximately 2,000,000 every year. Wheelchair users have to put more effort on what we do daily like dressing, getting in or out of a chair, walking up the stairs, bathing, etc.
Imagine how challenging the traveling is going to be for wheelchair users.
Traveling inspires us to generate new ideas, it creates romantic memories with families or friends and offers healthy refreshment in our life.
For abled users, we can easily plan our trip to New York, Paris, Berlin, or Rome using TripAdvisor or other excellent travel planning services. We simply can browse the necessary resources that we need and go for a trip; however, for wheelchair users, it is a completely different story and demands more preparation.
The unfamiliarity of surroundings while traveling is a huge challenge for people with limited mobility. Little things that we do not notice can impact hugely on wheelchair users.
1. Booking hotels through travel agency do not guarantee fully accessible rooms.
2. Wheelchair users are in need of a caregiver or an assistant while traveling.
3. Not all places are accessible. It is necessary to acknowledge whether the place is inclusive or not.
4. Unexpected weather condition is challenging when visiting outdoor sights &landmarks.
5. Wheelchairs are not unbreakable; emergency situations always have to be prepared for.
Flashlight encourages wheelchair users to travel wherever they want, and experience fully.
flashlight - explore
flashlight - search
flashlight - sights&landmarks detail
flashlight - notification system
flashlight - hotel notification (zoomed in)
flashlight notifying the user as approaches to the booked hotel whether to request assistance or see confirmation email.
flashlight - near me & journal
The idea started from my hope that one day, wheelchair users can travel without any worries or concerns, and experience what we experience.
I had a chance to take Wheelchair Dreams course offered from Rhode Island School of Design last fall. Unlike other students who were more driven to designing a physical product, I decided to approach this semester project relevant to my interest, user experience design and how to improve wheelchair user's traveling experience using my skills since I am a travel enthusiast.
First, I started by sending out the online traveling experience survey to various wheelchair user communities via Facebook Pages and Groups. (Special thanks to John from Wheelchair Travel, Gary from Wheelchair Accessible, Wheelchair Accessible Travel, and Kunho Kim, the author of 20 States on Wheels!)
Based on responses, my conclusion was wheelchair users like traveling and they regularly spend time on their leisure travel. Surprisingly, about 96.8% of respondents said "yes" they like traveling, they travel 1-10 times a year, and for leisure purpose mostly.
Although wheelchair users love traveling, approximately 90% of the respondents said they experience challenges to travel. Also, 97% of respondents plan things-to-do before the departure. For abled users, they do not necessarily have to plan things ahead if they do not prefer to, but it is different for disabled users. They have to be prepared as much as possible because certain situations such as checking the accessibility of the city, landmarks, requesting the assistance by contacting the airlines, etc. If they do not want to end up just visiting the most accessible place like amuseum, they have to be prepared. Under-preparation degrades the quality of their traveling experience.
Additionally, current travel planning platforms do not perform highly on providing accessibility resources and planning experience at the same time. Tripadvisor, LonelyPlanet and Yelp have rich travel planning, but low on accessibility resources. On the other hand, Planat and Wheelmap.org are rich on accessibility resources but low intravel planning. Therefore, flashlight aims to achieve both rich accessibility information and travel planning resources.
In conclusion, wheelchair users want to expect the unexpected, to be a decision maker, to share trip experiences, and to search accessibility information easily.
In summary, flashlight...
1. Builds a wheelchair traveling community.
2. Curates the accessible city and travel guides and makes recommendations for a user.
3. Filters the sights&landmarks and hotels by accessibility.
4. Sends a user weather change notification. ex)A user will get an alert before he/she gets soaked in rain!
5. Requests assistance for the user when he/she approaches the hotel.
6. Helps a user with a broken wheelchair or other emergencies.
In the near future, I hope wheelchair users experience what we experience as traveling.