LINCOLN CITY — “We are a free app, and we crowd source accessibility information about businesses. You can think of it as Yelp for accessibility,” said Spoon Saver developer Ashley Tringali, pointing out that July was National Disability Pride month.
Anybody who has the app can go anywhere and rate any place, she explained of the iOS and Android compatible app.
The app is easy to use and details exactly what it means to be wheelchair accessible, Tringali explained. “That means a button at the front door that opens automatically, that there’s enough space for a wheelchair to wheel throughout the aisles of the restaurant or the store.”
Spoon Saver “allows someone who has a disability or needs accommodation to know that information before they go.”
Filters, Tringali detailed, are handicapped parking, wheelchair accessible, service dog accessible, hearing impaired, vision impaired, bathroom accessible and availability of self-service options. “We tell you the noise level of the establishment,” she said.
Spoon Saver is a global app, but Tringali focused on gathering information in Lincoln City where she lives, so there’s a backlog of data there.
“My friend, Patrick Kragen, and I developed and launched the app together,” she said of Spoon Saver. While fewer than 100 people have downloaded Spoon Saver, she is optimistic, as there is a wide need. She acknowledged the pandemic interrupted getting the word out and rating businesses.
The app uses Google Maps. If people were to search a type of store or restaurant, Tringali explained, the results will display on the app, but unless they have been rated, the accessibility has not yet been verified. “Anything you can find on Google Maps, you can rate.”
Tringali said before starting the app, she thought, “This has to exist already, right?” But she claims, “There is nothing on the market that gives you information beyond if there is handicapped parking.
“Our goal right now is to focus on specific communities, for instance, where I live — Lincoln City, Lincoln County, to be able to get enough ratings for people so that we hit critical mass, where it’s super-useful for people to be on the app and use it. The app works when people are supplying information about places they visit,” she explained.
Tringali rated several of the stores at Lincoln City Outlets. To rate an establishment takes less than 60 seconds, she said. “Anyone can use the app and rate businesses. We made it accessible and easy for them to participate, to rate and do everything in the app.”
Tringali credits her work leading a nonprofit that trains service dogs — Starfleet Service Dogs — as motivation for developing Spoon Saver. “I would say that my mother’s career as a dog trainer and the fact that she has a disability influenced my career path of working with dogs and individuals with disabilities,” she said. “I was exposed to the pain points of the (disabled) community.”
Not everyone knows that service dogs are allowed to go into a mall, restaurant or a business, Tringali said. Technically, it is illegal to deny them access. However, she claimed, “Practically everyone with a disability that requires certain accommodations, I can almost guarantee has been to a place that could not serve them because of their disability or has been to a place that they have been discriminated against because of their disability.
“The enforcement isn’t there,” she explained, and there is often little recourse. “Here’s an option, added information,” she said of Spoon Saver. “Even though we may not have a disability, or someone else may not have a disability, I can guarantee they have a parent or a grandparent that uses a walker or uses a hearing aid. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know that the restaurant you were going to go to brunch with them was super loud?
“Our goal right now is to get users on the app and have them rate places. We’re trying to localize that by geographical locations. It’s going to be most useful to have at least 200 users in Lincoln City, because then all the places will be rated, and that will provide a useful tool,” Tringali said.
“I’m reaching out to our chamber of commerce … to get the word out,” she added. “I’m working with other people trying to do similar things so we can coalesce and make our voices a little bit louder.”
Tringali declared Lincoln City a wonderful place to start this. “We have so many tourists, and we have an aging population, and we have a lot of businesses.”