A Neate way to welcome people with disabilities

Gavin Neate of Neatebox winning the Scottish Edge award , presented to him by Hannah Bardell MP.
Gavin Neate of Neatebox winning the Scottish Edge award , presented to him by Hannah Bardell MP.

A Roslin man’s invention designed to help disabled people enjoy hassle-free trips out, will be launched this month after winning £35,000 of funding.

Gavin Neate of Neatebox spent 18 years working with guide dogs and used that experience to create the Welcome app, similar to the Button app he created in 2014 to assist blind and disabled people at pedestrian crossings.

Thanks to the Scottish EDGE funding award, which is half loan/ half grant, he will now launch his latest idea on July 27 to organisations including Royal Bank of Scotland, Edinburgh Airport, Hilton Double Trees Hotels, the Falkirk Wheel and Forth Valley Sensory Centre, providing venues with a picture of, and five top tips relating to, a disabled visitor. Users will download the Welcome app for free, with venues paying a monthly subscription to use the service.

Gavin, who said his invention had received UK and Scottish Government interest, explained more: “I noticed when I worked for Guide Dogs for the Blind that visually impaired people would very seldom get the service you or I would take for granted.

“After doing the pedestrian crossings, I realised I could alert customer services when the person hits a geofence that would announce they were about to arrive and a beacon at the door would let them know they had arrived.

“Nobody has done this, it’s massive. For customer advisors at any of the venues they will know everything about the visitor and how to interact with them. The potential is huge, every single business could have this installed.

“People can be quite anxious when meeting a disabled person for the first time. First impressions count.”

Gavin liaised with Guide Dogs, RNIB and Scope when designing the app, which he says will “break down barriers”, adding:“This could be a massive help to disabled people and also to customer service teams.”

Neatebox is based at Rose Street, Edinburgh, creating products that improve the quality of life for specific users. While it currently only has four staff, Gavin believes it will grow thanks to the funding.

He said: “A third of it will go towards developing the product, a third towards operational costs and a third to marketing.

“We hope to expand to English-speaking countries first, like Australia and Ireland, but to start we have to show this works in the UK.

“Because we are doing low cost we would need hundreds of venues on board. It’s taken us a while to get here – it was only last year I took on people to work with me.

“Once you start selling you have take on sales staff and accounts managers, it takes time to grow.”