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No Barriers Podcast Episode 128: The Ability App with Alex Knoll



Erik and guest host, Tom Lillig, speak with 16-year-old Alex Knoll about his innovative app: The Ability App. Ability App helps people find accessible and inclusive features at businesses around the world. This episode is brought to you by Wells Fargo, 16-year-old Alex Knoll is a tech founder and international speaker with a passion for helping others.

He has been featured on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, BBC, Irish Times, NBC Nightly News, Sky News & many more.

Alex developed Ability App, a global crowd-sourced web app that helps people with cognitive, hearing, vision, and/or mobility disabilities and caregivers search for specific accessible and inclusive features at locations around the world.

Ability App launched globally on May 1, 2020. Please visit the Ability App website for more information at TheAbilityApp.com.

Most recently, Alex was awarded The Diana Award, given out by the charity of the same name with the support of The Duke of Cambridge and The Duke of Sussex, and was created to honor Princess Diana’s work while inspiring others to action.

Special thanks to Wells Fargo for their sponsorship of today’s podcast in a series featuring folks who are breaking barriers in the business and the workplace.

Resources:

Visit the Ability App Website: https://theabilityapp.com/

Watch Alex on Ellen

How Ability App Works

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Download the Episode

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1:
Special, thanks to Wells Fargo for sponsoring today's podcast in a series featuring leaders who are facilitating a cultural transformation in the workplace.

Alex Knoll:
Around seven or eight years ago, I saw a man in a wheelchair that wasn't able to open a door at a business, seeing that man not being able to open the door easily, that really opened my eyes. I hadn't noticed anything like that before. And it got me thinking and it really inspired me to go out there and try to find a solution to the problem.

Erik Weihenmayer:
It's easy to talk about the successes, but what doesn't get talked about enough is the struggle. My name is Erik Weihenmayer. I've gotten the chance to ascend, Mount Everest, to climb the tallest mountain in every continent to kayak the Grand Canyon. And I happen to be blind. It's been a struggle to live what I call a no barrier's life, to define it, to push the parameters of what it means. And part of the equation is diving into the learning process and trying to illuminate the universal elements that exist along the way, and that unexplored terrain between those dark places we find ourselves in and the summit, exists the map, that map that way forward is what we call no barrier.

Speaker 4:
Today. We talked to 16 year old Alex Knoll, who is a tech founder and international speaker with a passion for helping others. Alex developed Ability App, a global crowdsourced web App that helps people with cognitive hearing, vision and/or mobility disabilities, and caregivers to search for specific accessible and inclusive features at locations around the world. He has been featured on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, BBC, Irish Times, NBC Nightly News, Sky News. And he was recently awarded The Diana Award created to honor Princess Diana's work while inspiring others to action. Enjoy the conversation.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Hey everyone. Welcome to the No Barriers podcast, Alex, thank you for joining us and Tom, my co-host thank you for being here today as well.

Tom:
Oh, so excited to be here with you and Alex. And I know that we're going to unlock some great discoveries in this conversation today.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Alex, you and I met at the national speakers association conference in Denver, and they were giving you an award and recognizing your work for the Ability App that you have built. So maybe start us out with... You have gotten so much attention, every award under the sun, the Diana Award, the Ellen show, you met Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple. Has this been your life's work to this far? Or is there something we don't know about you? Like you love skateboarding or something else that nobody even knows about? Seems like this has taken over your life and has become really your life's mission so far.

Alex Knoll:
Well, yeah. Well, I do other things outside the app. I've been working on the Ability App for the last seven years or so. But alongside the app... [crosstalk 00:03:18].

Erik Weihenmayer:
That's a long time.

Alex Knoll:
Yeah. Yeah. It's been an amazing journey... [crosstalk 00:03:21].

Erik Weihenmayer:
And you're 16 now, right, alex?

Alex Knoll:
Yes, I am.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Yeah. So you started at nine. If my math is right.

Alex Knoll:
Yes. Nine years old.

Erik Weihenmayer:
And your voice has gotten a lot deeper since then, by the way.

Alex Knoll:
Oh, yeah. Yeah. It's a lot of times gone by. But it's been an amazing journey and I'm continuing with the App today. We're moving forward, people are signing up every day and I also have a little bit of time as well. The rest of my life are just going to high school right now. So, I'm balancing both and it's been awesome.

Erik Weihenmayer:
But it seems like this could almost be like a full-time job. Like you could drop out of school and just work on this full-time, right? So how do you balance it all?

Alex Knoll:
I actually did a couple of years ago. I homeschooled, to focus on the App a little bit more, but I did my school work at home. It made it a little bit easier to get both done. And I decided I wanted to go back to school and have that time, I know I'm not going to be a kid for very much longer. So, I said, "I'll go back to school." But I've got time for both, and I try to balance it out. But it's been a lot of fun.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Are you mostly doing this alone? I know like the Ellen show, their developers helped you a bit. But how have other people's expertise come into the process of developing this?

Alex Knoll:
Yeah. Well, I've had a lot of amazing mentors along the way. My parents are some of my biggest mentors and helpers, they've helped me throughout this whole process. That $25,000 from the Ellen show helped kick us off. It was incredible. It really got us off the line. And then after that, when those funds ran out, I began public speaking and I used that as a way to pay for further development to get further. So, I was public speaking a lot. I spoke all around the world. I was speaking in Slovakia and Switzerland, and that was incredible. Being able to meet all of those people, speak in front of them and then get the funds to help develop the app.
And of course, COVID put a little bit of a roadblock in that. So the apps did the same for the last, I guess, since March that's when all the speeches stopped and I haven't made one sense. But we've got a working tool today. We've got people signing up every day that are using the App and writing reviews on the Ability App, taking photos, going through the accessibility checklist and pin putting that information under the app.

Tom:
There's a lot of young people out there in the world that also love programming like you and that are getting some skills in it. But you chose to utilize your skills to create this App to help and elevate others, right? Others that have challenges. Tell me about what was the motivation behind that thinking, that decision that you made to create something that ultimately is not about entertainment or gaming, but ultimately something that lifts others up?

Alex Knoll:
Right. Well, the whole idea came about around seven or eight years ago where I saw a man in a wheelchair that wasn't able to open a door at a business. And I didn't know if there was a resource that, that man could have used to find other locations in the area that were accessible that had automatic doors. So, seeing that man not being able to open the door easily, that really opened my eyes. I hadn't noticed anything like that before. And it got me thinking and that's where the whole idea started.
I had an opportunity at my school. There was a program called Invent Idaho, and it encourages young people to think of ideas and then enter into the competition and the Ability App did very well in that competition. And that really got me started along the whole journey.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Did you know other people with disabilities or anything, or was any personal connection? And when you saw that guy, he couldn't get in the door, did somebody finally open the door for him? Did you see frustration? Did you feel frustrated?

Alex Knoll:
Yes.

Erik Weihenmayer:
That's a lot of questions by the way. I just hit you.

Alex Knoll:
Yeah. No, well, I had never seen anything like that before. I'd never seen anyone not being able to open a door that had disability. I didn't particularly have anybody in my family and I didn't didn't really have any friends or know anybody with a disability. So it was really my first experience seeing something like that. So it opened my eyes and it opened my family's eyes. We'd never seen like that before. And it really inspired me to go out there and try to find a solution to the problem. And since I saw that original man that couldn't open the door, it opened my eyes. I didn't know how many people with disabilities that were in the world. And that was more motivation to get something out there to help people.

Tom:
And when you think of about, all of the people that this App is helping and will help in the future, have you had any interactions with them on a one on one basis? That tells you that, "Yes. This affirms the vision of what you had originally." Tell me about some of those interactions that may have left a mark on your heart.

Alex Knoll:
Right. Well, I received throughout the many years that I've been doing this thousands of emails from people all over the world that are sharing their experiences and their advice and how much this App has the potential to change their lives. I received emails from families and caregivers and people with disabilities, and they share their stories about the challenges that they face and how the App can change their lives. So that's not only motivation, but they've also helped me along the way to implement things that they say would be very helpful for them.
So a lot of the features that you see in the App are from people that have reached out and given me advice of what to put in the app. So all of the different features that you can review at businesses on Ability App come from those people and my mentors, people with disabilities that have experience, and they've told me what I can do to a make the tool more helpful.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Is it fair? I mean, because I keep saying, this is like Yelp for accessibility, but is that a super annoying comparison?

Alex Knoll:
Well, no, that's been something that I've used to compare the App too. That for people that have never heard of it before. It's a good way to put it. You can find locations with photos of the business. You can find all the photos of the disability friendly features that the business offers. You can go through the checklist and read reviews of people's experience at that business based on the accessibility. And there isn't anything that's comprehensive, like the Ability App, that goes to the amount of detail to find accessibility, friendly features of businesses. So I think it's a good way to compare Yelp for accessibility.

Erik Weihenmayer:
And if you were the professor Alex, for accessibility in what you have learned through this app, what would you give the world in terms of their accessibility and inclusion at this point, A, B, C, D, F? Where are we?

Alex Knoll:
Well, many people may be afraid initially of the word accessibility. Business owners, they may think, "Oh, well that might cost a lot of money. That might be a lot of effort to try to get it up to the standards." But I would say there actually are many things that business can do for little to no money to make it better for people with disabilities at their business. A couple of examples to start out with that I like to share with people what they can do to make it better for people with disabilities have a better experience at their business, one of them maybe let's say a person in a wheelchair to make it easier for them. You can go to a restroom stall in a location and the coat hook in the restroom stall might be too high. That is such a simple fix for people in wheelchairs.
You can either lower that coat hook or go buy a new one and lower it in the stall. And that would make it incredibly more helpful for people on wheelchairs to hang their coat or their purse or whatever lower so they can reach it.
Another one would be educating your staff on the needs of people with disabilities. And that that's just a little bit of training to give people a better experience. So there are a lot of things like that that are very inexpensive, maybe even free. It'll make it a lot better for people disabilities at your business.

Tom:
It seems like a very, very important service that this App is providing the world. Why don't you think anyone had come up with it before you? Why did it take nine year old Alex to come up with it? Why are hundreds of years of people facing disabilities, and it was a nine year old that saw this man and decided he was going to do it? What do you think that is?

Alex Knoll:
Well, I couldn't tell you, it's such a huge problem. It's been a problem for a very long time, where... I'm really surprised, I was surprised that there was nothing like it before. And seeing that nothing like it had existed before and seeing the huge need, it really pushed me to continue forward. Of course App development can be very challenging and I've realized that it can be very challenging to find the funds and the right people to create the right and a very useful product.
So it can be a lot of effort and that might shy people away from putting in the work. So it has taken a lot of time to create this robust tool. And I really was actually surprised, but it's such a huge problem. And it makes me so happy to see the progress and the potential of how many people's lives it can change.

Tom:
Yeah. Well you are, I got to say the most buttoned up 16 year old I think I've ever met. I mean, you're like ready for Prime Time use with the way that you are able to answer and deliver these responses. One of the things that I wonder is what is it that drives you each day, day in and day out? You've got your school, you've got your homework, you've got your other interests. What is it that drives you to continue to like, "Hey, I've got to make this better."

Alex Knoll:
Well, one of the biggest is hearing from others that have reached out to me. Like I mentioned, all of those emails that I received from people all around the world, the messages of their advice and how much this App can change their lives. That has been the number one drive for me to continue forward knowing how many people's lives it can change.
So helping others has been a huge for me, this whole process. And that really keeps me going, seeing all of the stories of people with disabilities and their caregivers and what this App can do.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Yeah. I saw some really powerful ones. People were saying, "I was scared to go out of my house and now I feel confident going out and knowing that I can get a braille menu or to table, that's going to be low enough for me." Even at No Barriers, we had a retreat one time and we have a No Barriers' board member who is in a wheelchair, and he couldn't reach the lights in his room. He almost fell off the toilet seat because paras sometimes need a more stable toilet seat. I've been with my friend, Mark Wellman, world famous paraplegic athlete.
We went to his favorite restaurant and he couldn't get into the front door. So, they had him go around the back, but the back door was locked and we had to wait like a half an hour for them to find out where the key was. So, this is way beyond just travel. This is like dignity and identity, right? For people and how they actually go out into the world and can make an impact, right? I mean, it goes way deeper than just technical technology.

Alex Knoll:
Yeah. There are a lot of stories like that, unfortunately. And hopefully we can make a big difference in that space. Educating others and sharing those stories can be a motivator for businesses and can open their eyes to see what can be done to make it better for people with disabilities.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Take us through the map of like just the 101, because you have folks with cognitive challenges, autism, you have blind, you have deaf, you have folks in wheelchairs, you have caregivers, all their accessibility needs are a little bit different. So, just like 101, take us through each of those experiences, what those different groups might be looking for in terms of accessibility.

Alex Knoll:
Right. Well, many people think of people with mobility disabilities on the App they can find features like, if the business has an automatic door, an accessible entrance. If the tables are low enough at a restaurant. If, like the example I said, if there are small things too. People can take photos of things like the coat hook and the rest stall. People look for that. Things like that, for people with mobility disabilities. We've also got vision, hearing, cognitive. Cognitive people look for quiet spaces in restaurants. So, we're hoping to in the future implement technology, that already exists on people's phones. There's on most iPhones and things like that. You can measure the decibel rating in the restaurant.
So, in the future as more resources come along, we hope to implement features like that. Measure the locations ambient noise for people, with hearing impairments. That's also a huge thing that people look for. Is it quiet enough if they have low hearing levels, if it's quiet enough in the restaurants so that they can hear the person that they're sitting with at the table with them. So, those are some of the basics, but it goes into a lot of depth in the app. We've got all of the different features that people can look through on all the different categories. We've got four categories of disabilities. All of those that you mentioned.

Erik Weihenmayer:
If you're deaf and you're going into like a hotel, I saw one of the things that you could rate was, is the staff trained? Would they want to know sign language or maybe may basically have a way of communicating non-verbally with folks?

Alex Knoll:
Right. And that's one thing where employees could speak sign language, and also printed information for people with hearing disabilities, having information that people can look through on the business, if a person with sign language that knows sign language isn't available. So, that's also in there printed info, that's a specific feature that's listed in the app.

Tom:
Okay, cool. You have helped so many people, and at the same time, I imagine you've learned so much being a person without a disability. You probably have learned so much about some of the daily challenges that people with disabilities face. Has there been one moment or one discovery that has been truly eyeopening for you that has really shaken you to your knees and it's like, "Wow, I didn't realize that?"

Alex Knoll:
Well, there have been many experiences like that. The first one was in the beginning where the whole idea came about, and that opened my eyes to the whole need for accessibility, I had never been aware of it before. But all of the features have come along slowly from, like I mentioned, the people that I've met, the mentors that have helped me along the way. So I've had a lot of experiences where people tell me things that I didn't know before. So I added that into the app.
So originally in the very, very beginning, just started with the mobility, that was the idea. Then all as I met more people with these different disabilities, I added those features that they said would be helpful under the app. So all of the experience I've had many that have inspired me and opened my eyes to put more things into the app.

Erik Weihenmayer:
That's so cool. That's the iterative nature of technology, right? You can just keep adding and improving and better and better and better every day, right?

Alex Knoll:
Yes.

Tom:
So, I don't know if you've heard of Hugh Herr, he was one of our founding board members and he heads up MIT Biomechatronics Group, and Hugh is a pioneer in prosthetics, like super advanced prosthetics, right? And one of the things that he's always impressed upon on me and some of us at No Barriers, is just about for all the successes that we have in our journey, it's also we learn so much from the struggle. I was wondering, is there one big struggle or one big failure that you had in your journey that said, "Ah, I learned so much from this." Is there anything that stands out to you?

Alex Knoll:
Well, yeah, there are a lot of roadblocks that you run into when developing an app. Big one, as I mentioned is financing. Apps can be very very expensive with the amount of money that programmers, that good ones, that can help you create a robust tool. That can be very expensive. And then a lot of people, of course, there are a lot of haters, a lot of people that will doubt what your App can do, but you just can't... You just don't have to listen to them. You just have to keep going, keep believing in your mission. Don't let others negative information that they're trying to give you, slow you down. You just got to keep moving forward.

Tom:
I felt like you were about to say the Negative Nellies out there.

Alex Knoll:
Yeah.

Tom:
Screw the Negative Nellies, right? [crosstalk 00:20:38].

Alex Knoll:
You can't listen to them. You have to believe in your mission, and surround yourself with positive people that can help you along the way, that have the expertise that are a positive influence.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Have you seen a situation where somebody said, "Look, this was totally inaccessible. There was no elevator. You know what I mean? For me to get down to that floor." Or whatever it may be. And have you seen the hotel or the train station or whatever the company is, respond and say, "Hey, we're going to fix this. We're going to change this. This isn't right. We get it. You called us out and now we're going to step up."

Alex Knoll:
Well, maybe things as big as that. That can be a lot of money in. The whole goal of the App isn't to point out the negatives of businesses... [crosstalk 00:21:30].

Erik Weihenmayer:
Okay, good. That's a good framework.

Alex Knoll:
We try to point out the locations that are accessible. We don't want to punish anybody. There are some businesses that may not have the funds to implement features like that. But the goal of the App is... [crosstalk 00:21:44]

Erik Weihenmayer:
That makes sense. I like what you're saying. You're try to keep it positive and focus on the ones that are doing a good job versus the ones that are not doing a good job. That's really excellent. But keep going, sorry.

Alex Knoll:
Oh, no. Well, yeah. But I'm sure most businesses know that people disabilities are a large group of people, a large percentage of the world's population. So, you think it would be a smart business decision, and also the right thing to do to include people with disabilities and provide the services that'll make it a better and provide a better experience. So as the App gains traction, I'm hoping that it continues to inform a lot of business owners, more business owners into the future to help improve their experience of their businesses.

Tom:
Yeah. Well, I'll be the first to say that I love that focus on just awarding and recognizing those businesses that truly are accessible. I'll also go step further and say, I don't mind doing a little public shaming on those businesses that are not yet up to speed. Let's get them... [Crosstalk 00:22:50].

Erik Weihenmayer:
Because I respect the idea of keeping it positive, but I think Tom that's right. You pointed public shaming, yeah. That's not a terrible thing to just be like, "Hey, come on. You can do better than this." Right?

Alex Knoll:
Yeah. And a lot of them may not even be aware. So I've spoken to a lot of different business owners that once I inform them about... And share with them, some of the stories and some of the things that they can do, it's even simple things, they weren't aware of them before. And once they know, they're very much open to implementing those.

Tom:
That's a huge point. I really appreciate that. Because I do think that part of it is awareness, right? That's the first step to making change, is becoming aware that there is in fact a problem. And tell me about, if you can, is there any conversation that you've had with anyone, where you raised awareness and then change was made?

Alex Knoll:
Yeah. Well, there are a lot of them. One of the things that I've actually gone to multiple businesses about are braille menus. So in my area, there are a lot of people that actually provide services of printing braille menus for free. So, a lot of business owners weren't aware before. People of vision impairments would like to have these braille menus. It makes it awesome. So share with them what they can do. Simple things to give people with vision impairments access to these menus, they were very much open and I've actually had a couple businesses that now do offer braille menus. So again, it's just that awareness and a lot of business are happy to do it and they'll get recognition on the app. So, people will be able to look for that business that offers those features.

Tom:
So, you're someone that loves programming, right? That's like part of your passion, right?

Alex Knoll:
Well, yeah. I've I started learning... I'm not of course a full stack developer, but I'm trying to learn some of the skills to be able to speak more intelligently with my programming team. So, I'm not a full stack developer at this point, but I'm hoping to learn to try to know the background on the app, to maybe implement changes that need to be done, and I can maybe help in the future. But I'm trying to learn.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Were your parents programmers or in the tech world? I mean, because it seems like sometimes when somebody brings an idea to this really amazing level, they had parents or uncles or aunts or you know what I mean? That were also big achievers.

Alex Knoll:
Right. Well, my whole family, none of us are in the tech space. My dad, retail. My mom is a graphic designer. So, it's something new for us. It's really opened our eyes. But we've got the passion. And it's something new and exciting that we've been able to try to tackle.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Wow. That makes it even cooler, right, Tom?

Tom:
Oh yeah. Yeah. And I got to figure out what was the best part of being on Ellen? That was pretty amazing.

Alex Knoll:
That was pretty incredible. She's been hero of mine for a long time. So, it was very emotional being there for the first time. That was pretty fun. She's an awesome lady. But the whole day there, the time I was on there, it was pretty incredible.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Twice.

Alex Knoll:
Yeah. It was pretty awesome. And all the opportunities I was able to go to Apple a couple of times from that appearance on the Ellen show was able to be introduced to those people at Apple and went to a couple of their events for the iPhone 10 back in 2017. But that was pretty fun. Apple and Ellen, those were two people and I guess company and a person that I looked up to a lot. So it was pretty cool.

Erik Weihenmayer:
It was so fun watching you or I should say listening to you react to meeting Tim Cook, you were like... It was like somebody meeting, I don't know, famous football player or something, you know what I mean? For you.

Alex Knoll:
Yeah. That was pretty fun too. That was a nice, that was a fun day being there at Apple. That's a pretty cool campus down there. And I think it's Cupertino in California.

Tom:
So, you're 16, you've developed this web app, which is amazing, it's already helping so many people you're focused on helping further that and make it even bigger and better for so many. What's next? Do you got any big dreams? What would be the next big thing that you want to do?

Alex Knoll:
Well, right now I'm just in high school and this App going. So I'm focusing on that right now, but I hope to go to college in the next couple years, and I'm almost there. A couple more years until I go to college. So I'm hoping to do that. I maybe business says a major or something like that. But I'm looking right now. I'm trying to keep my options open. [crosstalk 00:27:31].

Erik Weihenmayer:
Got to keep reminding myself that you're 16. And the biggest things of your life are the App that you created that's affected millions of people and just getting your driver's license.

Alex Knoll:
Right. I love it. I love it. I love it.

Erik Weihenmayer:
You did just get your driver's license, right? pretty know you old now.

Alex Knoll:
Oh no. I live here in Idaho and I was lucky enough to it get early. I think I got it... Was it 15? And then I had my permit at 14 and a half. So, that was pretty fun. I've had it for a little while now. So it's been fun. I love driving, that's another passion of mine. I like the after school, and after working on the App, go out and drive around a little bit.

Tom:
One of the big things we talk about at No Barriers is this concept of rope team, and in this world, it's pretty hard to do anything all by ourselves. We create a vision for ourselves and tap into the expertise and the support of a lot of people in order to move forward with that vision. I was wondering from your standpoint, who are the key members of your rope team who helped you accomplish this vision, and who are they and what roles did they serve for you?

Alex Knoll:
Yeah, I've had a lot of amazing people that I've been able to meet and become friends with and they've become my mentors. Probably my number one are my parents. Of course, they've helped me out throughout this whole process. I've also met a lot of friends with people of people with disabilities that have helped me along the way, given me advice, given me the motivation to continue forward. And I've had a lot of great people on the App development side that have helped mentor me and even donated some of their time to help build up this App.
So there have been a lot of people and that's important if you want to accomplish your goals, surround yourself with positive people that have the expertise to help you keep going. So I've had a lot of great people, thankfully, that have helped me long way.

Erik Weihenmayer:
That's how you get on the fast track. Right? I mean, I've always believed that that's how you get on the fast track, right? Because, say you don't have all the skills and knowledge to do what you want to do in your mind, right? So if you can get people to take you under their wing and you show the right gratitude and appreciation, man, they'll teach you anything, right?

Alex Knoll:
Yeah.

Erik Weihenmayer:
You seem to have that spirit of gratitude and curiosity.

Alex Knoll:
Yeah. It's important to surround yourself with good people that are positive influence on you. Have positive energy, have positive people around you.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Yeah. And seems like there's a lot of teens that are just trying to sort their... I mean, some people are still pretty concrete at 15, 14 years old. But some kids are really thinking about their lives and what their impact on the world is going to be. One, do you speak to some teen groups and help them collect their thoughts and figure out how they may want to impact the world? Do you have any advice for other kids? Not to put pressure on them to build an App that's going to impact the world, maybe you have, but maybe something totally different or just how to make little changes?

Alex Knoll:
Yeah. Well, I've been able to speak with some of the kids at school and some of the things that I tell if I do speak to a group of people, young, old. Maybe I'd say the number one piece of advice that I'd have is to put your goals down into small individual goals. You break them down, you got this big goal. If you want to accomplish something, you just break that down into small goals, day by day, accomplish things one by one. And as you do that day by day, as you accomplish more, you'll get closer to accomplishing that big goal. So one way to get started. It may be a long road. But you got to also enjoy the journey. You can't just focus, of course on the end, you got to enjoy the journey. A lot of people say that nowadays, but it's important.
You got to enjoy the journey and you can start. You can start small, as you continue forward, you can accomplish your big goal. But stay positive and surround yourself with positive people as well. And that can help you accomplish your goals. But for young people, don't be in a rush. You can enjoy being a kid as well. You got a lot of time ahead of you. Usually, so you can enjoy the journey, and have a positive attitude. And don't be afraid if there is a problem that you want to accomplish, you can do it. Anybody can do it.

Tom:
How can people help the App become more successful? What advice or guidance, for all of our audience that's out listening right now, and wants to make this a success? How can they help it?

Alex Knoll:
Right. Well, the number one thing that I say to people now is, sign up and create an account on the App and go out and start rating reviews on the Ability App that can make a huge impact on people in your community, giving people a roadmap of the accessible spaces that people are able to go to. So, it's very simple, just go and create an account in the app. Even one or two businesses to start will help create that roadmap. You can go take photos. You can go through the accessibility checklist, write a few comments on some of the features that people can find of those businesses.
But if a bunch of people can do that, we can start to create this huge roadmap around the world, around the country. So yeah, go out and create an account on the abilityapp.com. So it's just basically the same as what it'll be in the App store, but just go out and start creating reviews for... To create a roadmap for people with disabilities and their caregivers.

Tom:
Awesome. And it sounds like funding is something also that you would be welcome to some investments, right? So, what's the next milestone in terms of getting this to become on the App store? What needs to happen in order for that to be there?

Alex Knoll:
Right. Well, I'm actively looking for, for people to help the Ability App continue forward resources, even small mats help to get these small goals that I have, some of the features I mentioned that I'd like to implement in the future. So yeah, I'm looking for people to help. There's not really set number right now, really anything to help the App move forward and improve it a little bit by bit. So I'll continue doing it. Hopefully there are a couple events that will be coming up here soon that I can start speaking out again and maybe I'll get some more funds for the App that way.
So, looking forward to that, hopefully there'll be some more events to help the App move forward, but I'm going to continue moving forward. We've had a lot of progress and there are people signing up every day. It's a usable tool right now. So, we've worked for the last seven years to get it up to where it is now, and I'm excited that it's out there for people to use.

Tom:
Cool. Awesome. That's great. Well, congratulations on everything that you have accomplished. Eric, any final wrap up questions that you wanted to throw out there?

Erik Weihenmayer:
No, Alex, I'm just proud of you and it's good to see somebody with an idea that they've actually been able to bring forward into the world and maybe it's not all... I know there's a long way to go for you, but it's really cool to... Have met you a couple years ago and just see you driving forward with this amazing idea and our No Barriers community really appreciates it, especially. So will and encourage as many people as possible to sign up and continue that crowdsourcing.

Alex Knoll:
We appreciate that. And thank you guys for the opportunity for having me today.

Tom:
Yeah. Alex, you're such an impressive young man. It's so inspiring to see someone that is not only use their passion and their interest to create something that is... Helped other people, but someone that is deeply passionate about changing the world through your technology. So thank you.

Erik Weihenmayer:
It's so awesome.

Alex Knoll:
Oh, thank you.

Erik Weihenmayer:
I mean, because we have people at No Barriers, always coming in with these ideas. Like, "I have an idea and I want to change the world with this idea, but I don't know how to move forward with this idea." Like, "How do I get funding? How do I get the attention? How do I figure out the people that are going to help me bring it into the world?" So, I think there's a lot of people with great ideas. So, I just encourage you to keep helping people bring those ideas into the world, because you've clearly gone through it and are right in the midst of it.

Alex Knoll:
Absolutely. And we need more people making positive differences in the world. There are a lot of issues out there for people to solve, but like I said, you could take it step by step and collectively, everybody making a difference. So will be awesome.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Cool. All right. Well I'm looking forward to seeing where the App goes.

Alex Knoll:
Thank you. Yes.

Erik Weihenmayer:
All right.

Alex Knoll:
I'll look forward to it. Thank you.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Thanks Alex.

Alex Knoll:
Thank you guys.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Now get your homework done.

Alex Knoll:
Okay. Thank you. See you guys later.

Tom:
Take care Alex.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Okay. Bye.

Tom:
Bye now.

Speaker 7:
We would like to thank our generous sponsors that make our No Barriers podcast possible. Wells Fargo, Prudential, CoBank, AERO electronics and Winnebago. Thank you so much for your support. It means everything to us. The production Dean behind this podcast includes senior producer, Pauline Shaeffer. Sound design, editing, and mixing by Tyler Cotman. And marketing support by [Heather Ocho 00:37:06] , Stevie Donardo, Erica Hoit and Alex Schaffer. Special thanks to The Dan Ryan band for our intro song Guidance.
And thanks to all of you for listening. If you enjoy this podcast, we encourage you to subscribe to it, share it and give us a review. Show notes can be found at nobarrierspodcast.com.

 



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