February 20, 2017
Wheelchair user and disability rights advocate Stephen Cluskey has been busy meeting potential investors in his Mobility Mojo website and app and seeking out well-known public figures to participate in his Challenge Access event.
We’ve had a good start to the year following on from our presentation at the Investor Day at the National Digital Research Centre (NDRC) where we have been developing the Mobility Mojo website and app.
We were one of twenty companies who presented on the day and that led to some conversations with potential investors which were very encouraging. We’re a little early for investment at the moment but we are certainly working towards that.
Right now, I’m working on plans for the Challenge Access event which encourages people to ‘make one simple change’ at school, work or in their community to improve accessibility. We are looking for well-known public faces to undertake challenges related to physical, visual, hearing and cognitive disabilities.
The idea behind it is that they would take on a challenge to see what life is like for someone with one of those disabilities. We want the participant to let people know about their experience, about meeting the challenges around accessibility that they encountered and the solutions they think should be put into place. We are hoping to work with a national media partner for the project.
I have also been involved in a national campaign to promote farm safety in association with the students at CBS Roscommon. They have produced a video on the subject and are calling for schools to dedicate 45 minutes a year to showing the video and teaching students about the potential dangers that exist on a farm.
The subject is especially important for children in secondary school in rural areas. It is really at that age that students are working and helping out on the farm and that is the time when they are most likely to encounter things concerning their safety.
My own experience of becoming paralysed from the neck down after falling from a hay bale was something that I relayed when I appeared on Ireland AM to promote the video, which features and has also been supported by Irish rugby international Sean O’Brien and well-known Irish food and farming journalist Ella McSweeney.
Stephen Cluskey has had plenty to celebrate this month with the success of the inaugural HackAccessDublin event and he is now focused on attracting big investors for his business MobilityMojo, which is like TripAdvisor for people with higher access needs.
We are just after hosting our first HackAccessDublin which was about leveraging the power of start-up energy and innovation to help make Dublin more inclusive to people with mobility problems.
It brought engineers, developers, designers, urban innovators and entrepreneurs together to find solutions to a series of challenges. It was a really positive, productive and inspiring event with three great days of activity at Google’s EMEA headquarters in Barrow Street, kindly sponsored by Nissan.
Day one was about identifying the problems around access and disability and forming teams to solve them. Each team spent the following day working together in an Enabler Session where mentors gave them advice and technical guidance to make their ideas viable.
The teams got to present their solutions to a panel of judges on the final day who had the tough job of picking a winner. The solutions to some of the challenges were truly innovative and proved what can be done when people work together to identify and overcome a challenge.
One of the greatest challenges facing wheelchairs users is the necessity to give 24 hours notice when they want to utilise the train. A lot of the stations are unmanned and the notice is required to ensure that staff are there to lay down the wheelchair ramp to the train. There is no spontaneity to travelling by train if you are a wheelchair user and the issue is a huge problem for tourists who are unaware of it until they arrive in the country. The hack was to develop an Uber type app where volunteers can put themselves forward to be available to lay down the ramps when contacted through the app.
One of the teams also produced some great insights into the lack of data around disability and what can be done to collate and disseminate that information nationally and globally. The Minister for Disability, Finian McGrath also visited the event and I am sure he learned a lot from those he met.
All of my focus right now is concentrated on the forthcoming Investor Day at the National Digital Research Centre (NDRC) where we have been developing the Mobility Mojo website and app. Everything we have been doing in recent months has been leading up to this day.
We will join up to a dozen other businesses in making a five-minute pitch to the audience which includes potential investors. Getting the pitch right is hugely important for the progression of the business and I have hardly had a minute to concentrate on anything else recently.
Our pitch will look at the problem that exists, the solution that we have developed, the market opportunity, the team behind the project, what we have achieved up to now, what we hope to achieve in the future and the potential impact of Mobility Mojo. It’s a lot to pack into five minutes.
I was also very honoured to attend the recent Belvedere Union Dinner in the Mansion House where I was named as this year’s recipient of the Social Justice Award. Past winners include Fr. Peter McVerry and it was a great privilege to follow in his footsteps.
I am also looking ahead to a busy start to 2017 and our plans to host the Challenge Access event which encourages people to ‘make one simple change’ at school, work or in their community to improve accessibility.
Stephen Cluskey has had a busy month rubbing shoulders with the stars of film and TV as an IFTA nominee, collecting awards for his social enterprise and working with government to improve accessibility and services for people with disabilities.
The past two months have been interesting on lots of levels. I took a long overdue holiday in September and was enjoying the first day away from it all when I got a call from the producer of the ‘Rugby’s Wheelchair Challenge’ show that I did last year with the great news that we had been nominated for an IFTA award.
The show was a very personal project. We put rugby players Jamie Heaslip, Fleix Jones, David Wallace and Shane Byrne into a wheelchair and challenged them to travel from the Aviva Stadium in Dublin to Thomond Park in Limerick via public transport to raise awareness of the need to improve public transport accessibility for people with disabilities.
The bad news is that we didn’t win. We were up against ‘Operation Transformation’ and ‘First Dates’. ‘First Dates’ won the award but it was great to be nominated and to receive such great national recognition. I’m very proud that we can say we created a show that generated awareness and that was also IFTA nominated.
I was fortunate enough to be involved in some other awards also after that. The social enterprise that I co-founded with Noelle Daly – mobilitymojo.ie – which is like TripAdvisor for disabled people, won the silver award in the ‘Best Accessible Tourism’ category at the Irish Responsible Tourism Awards.
We went one better at the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Awards where we won the ‘Elevator Award’. The two awards were a great endorsement of what we are aiming to achieve and they have really helped to put us on the map and to open up doors.
We recently completed phase of one of our project at the National Digital Research Centre (NDRC) and are currently focusing all our energy on making improvements to the Mobility Mojo website and app. We are taking it to the next level and have met and built relationships with lots of different organisations in relation to it. We had a great meeting with Facebook who helped and advised us on how to use social media to reach our audience. We are also working on exhibiting at the Over 50’s Expo at the RDS next week.
I’ve had a busy month on the advocacy side of things as well. I helped Minister for Transport Shane Ross to launch a new scheme to protect disabled drivers. It encourages drivers not to park in spaces allocated for disabled drivers. Aligned with that, I was also interviewed on Today with Sean O’Rourke on RTE Radio 1 as part of the launch.
I was also part of a delegation from Spinal Injuries Ireland who met with and called on the Minister for Disability, Finian McGrath to make improvements to the medical card scheme for people with disabilities. I was then appointed to a Government Task Force examining how people with a disability can take personal control of managing the funding that is available to provide them with support services.
Newstalk’s Henry McKean also spent some time with myself and Noelle Daly in wheelchairs in and around Grafton Street to record a piece for radio focusing on the accessibility issues encountered by people with disabilities. Radio pieces like that are important and we are looking forward to hearing Herny’s report.
Right now I am working hard on organising the Challenge Access event that is taking place at the end of November. Its goal is to encourage people to ‘make one simple change’ at school, work or in their community to improve accessibility.
Well deserved break for Stephen this September
October 3, 2016
August 24, 2016
Wheelchair-user Stephen Cluskey has made a lot of progress on some exciting projects to improve accessibility for people with disabilities, while also finding time to enjoy a stag weekend in Portugal.
I’ve had a productive summer, most of which has been spent at the National Digital Research Centre (NDRC). I am working on a programme with the NRDC and Enterprise Ireland to develop my social enterprise – mobilitymojo.ie – which is like TripAdvisor for disabled people.
I am meeting with different mentors every day. They have guys who are experts in finance, marketing and all the other different elements of making a business a success. Each of them give us guidance and every day that goes by another piece of the jigsaw falls into place and we see a solution to the problems we are trying to address.
I am working hard on developing a Challenge Access event in November. I visited Leinster house last week to meet with Senator Marie Louise O’Donnell who is helping with the project. We are also in talks with media organisations to progress the event and have a number of disability organisations involved.
The idea is to stage a week-long event during the last week in November to raise awareness about accessibility and to encourage people to make ‘one simple change’ at school, work, or in their community to improve accessibility.
Take a restaurant, for example. For someone with a visual impairment, simple things like the way a menu is printed can have a huge bearing on their experience. How you lay out a dining room can have an impact on someone with a mobility impairment. Small changes can make an enormous difference.
The plan is to tackle a different disability each day, concentrating on visual, cognitive, hearing and mobility disabilities and to finish off with a hackathon style event in Google’s EMEA headquarters in Dublin, which is something we are working hard on to achieve.
The thinking behind the hackathon is to bring experts from a variety of fields like architecture, engineering and IT together and to put the larger accessibility problems to them to solve. The teams will present their solutions to a judging panel and the winner will receive funding to develop their solution further.
I have managed to have some fun too. I joined a group of 20 of my close friends for a stag weekend in Vilamoura, Portugal. The accessible apartment I had booked was not so accessible unfortunately and there were no wheelchair taxis anywhere but these are the problems and realities of life in a wheelchair.
Aside from that, it was a great weekend and a stunning spot. The warm weather offered a chance to recharge the batteries and health wise I had never felt better. What made it really special, however, was being able to spend some quality time with some of my best friends.
To find out more about Mobility Mojo, watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyswBWOmv7w
Busy month for Stephen!
August 20, 2016
First vlog update from Nissan Generation Next Ambassador Stephen, includes details about receiving the Nissan Qashqai and the work that’s been happening over the past month. Recorded in the National Digital Research Centre, Dublin City 12th of August 2016.