It’s happened to us all. You’re out and about after meeting a friend for coffee or cocktails, and then it hits you — the sudden urge to use the restroom. For the walking population, there’s no need to panic. Popping into the closest restaurant, café, or bar and desperately pleading your case or buying a small something generally grants you the right to use the toilets. But for wheelchair users, relief is much harder to come by. How many locations will you have to roll to before you find an accessible bathroom? Enter WheelMate, an app that locates accessible restrooms and parking spots near you.
Despite ADA regulations, many businesses in the United States have chosen to ignore the law and ostracize the disability community by failing to update their facilities in compliance with accessibility standards. The same can be said for many other countries around the world that have enacted accessibility laws but rarely enforce them. Coloplast, a developer of ostomy and continence products, recognizes the obstacles wheelchair users face when traveling and even exploring their home city. That’s why they decided to create WheelMate!
WheelMate is available on both Android and iOS and uses standard GPS technology to geolocate your device. Upon launching the app, you will see your current location on a map. At the bottom of your screen, you’ll find a prompt asking you what you’re looking for. By clicking in the search bar, you can choose between three icons:
By zooming out, you’ll see a larger radius of your current location. If you’d like to see what’s available in a different area of the world, type the name of any city into the search bar. Whether you find what you’re looking for is dependent on other users like you submitting the accessible places they’ve visited!
To add a location, simply click on the plus button, type in the name of the establishment, choose the appropriate icon, indicate whether it’s free or paid, and click “Add location.” That’s it! As of now, you cannot edit your submission once it has been added, so make sure the information you enter is accurate.
If you don’t see any accessible parking or restrooms in your city, you may be among the first to use the app in the area. WheelMate is user-driven, so Coloplast is counting on you to submit accessible locations each time you discover one. Are there accessible toilets and parking at your supermarket? How about at your favorite restaurant or bar? By adding that information to WheelMate, you’re also helping fellow wheelchair users by allowing them to get out, run errands, and enjoy the town worry-free.
Another handy feature is the ability to rate a location. Let’s say you used the restrooms at an establishment you found through the app. By clicking on the icon and tapping “Rate this location,” you can give it a thumbs up or thumbs down depending on your experience there.
Coloplast is currently working on adding new features and would like user feedback on what you’d like to see next. A more detailed rating system, as well as the ability to delete inactive locations, are on their way, but new ideas are always welcome. After downloading the app and testing it, send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Show your support for WheelMate by emailing your comments and letting them know how helpful the app could be to you or a loved one. The more responses they receive, the more likely they are to allocate further resources to improving the app with future updates.
About the Author
Betsy Bailey has a diverse background that includes experience in marketing research, business operations, travel and culinary writing, and playing volleyball professionally overseas.
Betsy has been writing for Wheel:Life since January of 2017 and thoroughly enjoys the process of getting to know her interviewees. She also teaches students learning English as a second language, speaks French fluently, and travels any chance she gets!