My early days at school back in India were riddled with fantastical stories of traveling the world, of how everyone in that classroom would be friends forever, about how nothing would stop us and how we would make memories to last for a life time. However, when we made these fictional plans, we always had one friend who had no idea if she could be a part of these imaginary adventures we would have, because she was disabled and needed a wheelchair to be mobile. Knowing that society was not designed to help her get around easily was something that remained with me throughout the years.
More recently, I developed a close friendship with Michelle, who is a fellow commuter on the train ride from Northampton to London. She too is a wheelchair user and every morning hopes that I will be in before her to help her into the train, just in case the station doesn’t have anyone on standby to help her out.
When I was introduced to Wheels of Change here at Somo, my first few thoughts lingered around these two amazing women and how we could help in making things just a little easier for them in order to not only travel day to day, but to travel the world with as few hiccups as possible.
“What if we had a repository of information about a person that needed to travel shared with the travel provider?”
“What if the travel provider was alerted when someone required specific support?”
“What if we created a profile that providers could access…”
And just like that – the idea was born!
The first stages at Somo for the hackathon were about shortlisting popular ideas (such as these) shared by various people partaking in this contest. Once the ideas were shortlisted, we proceeded into sharing our ideas and making teams.
On the day of the hackathon, we had to make our idea come to life. Our biggest challenge was crystallising this idea, which we finally did! We needed to architect a standardised knowledge base (a profile builder) to enable all vendors to service differently abled customers across various platforms; like airports, stations, retail chains, festivals etc.
We called the product “Full Circle” taking inspiration from the wheel of the wheelchair. A more abstract design language was suggested for the app and the actual profile builder. It was a moment of elation when the judges shared our excitement about the potential this product could offer, the ease in travel that it could bring but more importantly – the idea of spontaneity still being a possibility in their planning process. And to top it all, we won 1st place for the best idea!
For me it was extra special. It allowed me to get in touch with an old school friend from yester-years and share this idea with her – helping us once again fantasise about meeting up one fine day in a random part of the world and discussing love and life and all those other good things in life!