Andreas Vasiliou: Revolutionising Accessibility In Cyprus With Ablebook

by Marios Roussos
Andreas Vasiliou: Revolutionising Accessibility in Cyprus with Ablebook

How Personal Challenges Inspired the Creation of the App

Navigating the world with a disability presents numerous challenges, from finding accessible spaces to dealing with social exclusion. For one visionary entrepreneur, these obstacles became the catalyst for creating a groundbreaking solution

We spoke with the founder of AbleBook, Andreas Vasiliou, who tells his journey and motivations behind the creation of the app, which aims to support people with disabilities. The founder, who has cerebral palsy and faced significant barriers in education and employment, turned these challenges into a driving force to create a fairer and more accessible society.

 As he explains, AbleBook helps reduce social exclusion for people with disabilities by providing a platform that makes their daily lives easier by digitizing accessibility information. With this application, people with disabilities can locate easily accessible locations, take advantage of business offers through the membership card and enjoy personalized services that facilitate their mobility. In this way, this application creates a more equal and fair society, offering equal opportunities and reducing the barriers faced by people with disabilities.

Through the AbleBook platform, they want to achieve some changes in society such as increasing awareness and acceptance of diversity, as well as reducing the barriers faced by people with disabilities. Also, it promotes equal access to services and opportunities, strengthening the independence and autonomy of people with disabilities. At the same time, such initiatives can encourage businesses and organizations to adopt accessibility practices, promoting a more inclusive society. Overall, AbleBook aims to create a society where every person, regardless of disability, can participate fully and equally.

Since its inception, AbleBook has made a significant impact on the community by fostering a safe and supportive environment where people with disabilities can connect, share experiences, and access valuable information. The platform has raised awareness about disability issues and promoted respect and understanding of diversity. It has also spurred the development of new initiatives to enhance accessibility and participation in society.

Andreas Vasiliou:  Ablebook

The founder offers valuable advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, particularly those aiming to create social impact, and also talks about his exciting upcoming plans and features for AbleBook, including integrating artificial intelligence and expanding the app.

A difficult journey

Tell us about your personal journey, and what inspired you to start AbleBook.

As you all know, I suffer from a form of cerebral palsy like tetraplegia of the upper and lower limbs and living with this condition forced me to face several difficulties both in education and securing a job in the labour market. After completing my studies, as an Electrical Engineer at the undergraduate and postgraduate level at the University of Cyprus, I wished to practice my profession but unfortunately faced exclusion and rejection. So, I took the initiative to start my own business, using my disability as a motivation having my difficulty as an impetus to contribute to a fair and democratic society through an application for people with disabilities.

Living with cerebral palsy and facing exclusion in the job market, I took the initiative to start my own business, using my disability as a motivation to contribute to a fair and democratic society.

How has your own experience with disability influenced your vision for AbleBook?

Due to my own disability, my daily life faces several difficulties, I have positioned myself as a sympathizer to every person facing any form of disability. In my opinion, the biggest problem facing people with disabilities in today’s society is access and acceptance in both social and interpersonal relationships. But analysing a social factor such as accessibility, I find myself in the unpleasant position of saying that our country is lagging. I took the initiative through our application, to provide solutions to the disabled by giving the message that: you can adjust the way and the quality of life yours, by all means, with diversity as the greatest motivator rather than motivator in the lives of people with disabilities.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when starting AbleBook, how did you overcome them, and what motivated you to become an entrepreneur?

Starting Ablebook, the challenges that came my way were varied. Initially, it was the presentation of our idea, implementation, and integration into society. The reason for my concern was because of the social problems that are presented in Cyprus, such as racism in various forms, and the impurity that exists in the surroundings, regarding the world of the disabled. Also, this factor causes social exclusion. Then I had to take the risk to implement my idea without having any negative thoughts in the back of my mind.

Since in Cyprus, more than 20% of the population consists of people with disabilities, this served as an escalation for the implementation and realization of my idea. Now that I’m in the 4th year of Ablebook, I have this to say: our biggest challenge has been getting the message across to the non-People with Disabilities environment that both equality and acceptance should prevail. Then, as I mentioned, the primary motivation was to facilitate most possibly the lives of the disabled, having me as their guide for a more accessible future.

Meeting the app

Can you explain how AbleBook works and the main services it offers?

The operation of Ablebook gives the right through the Mobile platform, to software such as iOS & Android, to present various services that provide accessible infrastructure for the disabled.

ablebook03

Specifically, the Ablebook app offers four key features:

  • Interactive Map: Allows users to select destinations with advanced filtering options, explore available accessibility facilities through photos, and interact with businesses. Also, users can report issues directly to us for immediate resolution.
  • AbleCard: A membership card exclusively for people with disabilities, which gives them benefits and discounts at participating businesses, along with a refund service through BuyWay365.
  • Kids section: Provides information on accessible spaces that serve children with disabilities, including parks and gyms.
  • Ablebook Portal: Allows businesses and municipalities to manage their listings on the app by allowing updates on content, hours of operation, and images, among other features.

AbleBook offers an interactive map, a membership card with benefits, a kids’ section for accessible spaces, and a portal for businesses to manage their listings, all aimed at improving daily life for people with disabilities.

What kind of impact has AbleBook had on the community since its inception?

Since its inception, AbleBook has significantly impacted the community in many ways. First, it offered a safe and supportive environment for people with disabilities, encouraging them to connect, communicate and exchange experiences.

Through the platform, users can discover accessible events and activities, as well as exchange information and advice on accessibility practices. In addition, AbleBook has helped raise awareness of disability issues by encouraging the community to treat diversity with respect and understanding.

Also, the platform has acted as a catalyst for the development of new proposals and initiatives for the benefit of people with disabilities. Through collaborations and partnerships, it has encouraged the creation of innovative solutions to improve access and participation in society for people with disabilities. Overall, AbleBook has built a strong network of support and information that helps strengthen social cohesion and ensure equal opportunities for all.

User feedback is important

How do you leverage technology to improve accessibility and user experience on the platform?

To improve accessibility and the user experience on the AbleBook platform, we leverage technology in several ways. First, we implement an accessible design that includes clean lines, high colour contrast, and simple navigation, ensuring that the platform can be used by everyone, regardless of their disabilities.

Content customization is also critical. We make sure the content is understandable and accessible by including image descriptions and clear text. In addition, we use advanced filters on the interactive map to help users find the information they need quickly and efficiently.

Finally, we attach great importance to user feedback. We collect their feedback and suggestions and use them to continuously improve the platform, ensuring it meets their needs and stays up-to-date with the latest technological developments.

With these methods, technology allows us to create a platform that is not only accessible but also enjoyable to use for all users, promoting social inclusion and equality.

How do you ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information provided on AbleBook?

The accuracy and reliability of the information provided on AbleBook is a priority for us, as we ensure that our users receive valid and useful information. Below, I list some of the practices we implement to ensure accuracy and reliability. The data and information collected and provided in AbleBook is confirmed by us since for a business to be included in the application a check is made based on ISO-21542-2021 for the accessibility of a space. The information posted on AbleBook is checked by us through the Portal to ensure the accuracy and validity of the information. The contents are reviewed and updated regularly to keep them current and accurate.

In these ways, we ensure that AbleBook users have access to reliable information to help them make informed decisions and improve their daily lives.

Our biggest challenge has been getting the message across to the non-disabled community that both equality and acceptance should prevail.

Are there any upcoming technological features or updates you’re excited about? How do you keep up with industry trends and integrate them into AbleBook’s offerings?

We are especially excited about the upcoming technology upgrades and features we plan to incorporate into the AbleBook platform. One of the most important developments is the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) to optimize accessible routes, thus offering better navigation and autonomy to our users.

To keep AbleBook on the cutting edge of technology, we’re constantly monitoring industry trends and accessibility innovations. We participate in conferences, seminars and technology exhibitions, and follow developments through specialized publications and research. In addition, we maintain contacts with other innovative companies and organizations to derive ideas and share best practices.

By incorporating these technological advances and following trends, we ensure that the AbleBook platform remains cutting-edge and continues to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities by providing them with the solutions and facilities they need.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs, especially those looking to create social impact?

To those who wish to become entrepreneurs, and especially to those who want to create social impact, I would like to give some important advice. Firstly, it is essential to have passion and commitment to your subject. Passion is what will keep you active and committed even in the toughest of times. Second, be authentic and truly believe in your mission. People appreciate honesty and authenticity, and this will help build trust and gain support.

In addition, it is important to know your audience and their needs. Do research, listen to their needs and challenges, and design solutions that really make a difference. Think creatively and find innovative ways to tackle social problems. Don’t be afraid to take risks and make mistakes, because from mistakes comes learning and improvement.

Collaborate with others who share the same vision. Networking and partnerships can enhance your influence and offer new perspectives and opportunities. Finally, stay resilient and persevere. The path of an entrepreneur is full of challenges, but with determination and adaptability, you can overcome obstacles and achieve your goal, creating a positive impact on society.

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