Alexander Knoll, 14, of Post Falls, Idaho, a homeschooled eighth-grader, is developing a free mobile application that can help people with disabilities around the world navigate public spaces, find safe and reliable services, and identify employment opportunities. When he was 9 years old, Alexander witnessed a man in a wheelchair trying to get through a heavy door at a sporting goods store. “I wondered if there was an app that could have told him, before he left his house, about other stores in the area that might have an automatic door,” he said. He checked; there wasn’t. So he decided to create his own.
He began interviewing people with disabilities and caregivers to learn as much as he could about their challenges. Then he started spending 3-4 hours almost every day building an application with a database full of accurate information about things like accessible restrooms, wheelchair ramps, Braille menus, service animal relief areas and visual alerting devices. Thanks to a grant and a GoFundMe page, he was able to hire a group of engineers to help him, but he still has to work hard soliciting sponsors and donors to fund his project. In addition, Alexander has been posting on social media and traveling widely to speak to service groups, businesses and organizations about the importance of inclusion and accessibility for people with disabilities. His “Ability App” is currently being tested and is expected to launch globally in 2019.