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His hotel didn't understand what 'wheelchair accessible' meant. So he built an app.

There’s a new app on the horizon that will open doors to accessibility for people with disabilities when they travel.

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Microsoft Philanthropies

People who have disabilities often come up against unavoidable obstacles when they travel.

Image via Access Earth/Facebook, used with permission.


When Ireland native Matt McCann was planning a trip to London back in 2012, he made sure the hotel fit all his requirements — most importantly, wheelchair accessibility. Since Matt has cerebral palsy, he has to be more discerning about the places where he chooses to stay. After some research, the hotel he chose appeared to check out ... that is, until he got there.

The hotel was not nearly as accessible as it claimed to be online.

There were steps leading up to the reception area that were difficult for him to climb. When he finally made it to his room, he couldn’t fit his rolling walker through the door.

Needless to say, this was a problem. Matt, together with his friend KC Grant, asked for a refund and left the hotel for one that was truly wheelchair accessible.

Matt's experience was eye-opening, and it sparked an idea to improve this lack of accessibility information.

According to Matt, the problem really lies in how hotels currently define "wheelchair accessible."

“Typically, when a hotel advertises itself as wheelchair accessible, they are looking specifically at the hotel rooms themselves," he says. "Rarely can you find specific accessibility information about the exterior of the hotel itself or access to the other amenities in the hotel such as the breakfast room, restaurant, or bar."


Image via iStock.

Despite what hotel owners and managers might think, access to these areas is just as important, and it often makes or breaks a travel experience for people with disabilities.

Matthew, KC, and their friend Jack Gallagher put on their software-engineer caps and came up with an ingenious program: Access Earth.

Access Earth is a platform to search, find, and add accessible locations. The data is compounded through crowdsourcing and can easily be updated by answering “yes” or “no” questions. It also includes virtual tours of hotel properties and local attractions including restaurants and shopping centers.

Image via Access Earth, used with permission.

“The key thing is that everyone’s definition of accessibility is different, and that is what Access Earth aims to address,” Matt told Upworthy.

They were able to complete the app in time to enter it into Imagine Cup in 2014 — "Microsoft’s premier technology competition that tasks students with creating apps that will change the world." Not surprisingly, they made it through the semifinals and ended up landing in third place in the World Citizenship category.

Since then, Matt, his business partner Ryan O’Neill, and their team have been working on expanding their data reach and getting the app mobile-ready.

Image via msuwelfare/Instagram, used with permission.

They’ve started an ambassador program, which encourages volunteers to rate more buildings and add more information to the site. Currently, you can only access Access Earth through its website and via Windows Phone, but iPhone and Android apps shouldn’t be too far behind.

“Everyone’s definition of accessibility is different, and that is what Access Earth aims to address."

The company plans to take Access Earth to the United States within the next 12 months. Right now, it's in beta testing but open to anyone to use.


Image via Access Earth, used with permission.

The future looks bright for this determined little start-up.

While expansion will be a challenge because it comes with accessibility guideline discrepancies, they remain optimistic. Until then, it’s all about continuing to cultivate their user base and develop their online presence so people with disabilities can find them.

Their goal is to make businesses prioritize universal accessibility in their building plans rather than add in accessible additions as an afterthought.

However, the only way for them to really succeed is with your help. If you’ve recently been to a hotel that had particularly good accessibility for individuals with disabilities, go to their website and add it to the list.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

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via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

via Pixabay

The show must go on… and more power to her.

There are few things that feel more awful than being stranded at the altar by your spouse-to-be. That’s why people are cheering on Kayley Stead, 27, from the U.K. for turning a day of extreme disappointment into a party for her friends, family and most importantly, herself.

According to a report in The Metro, on Thursday, September 15, Stead woke up in an Airbnb with her bridemaids, having no idea that her fiance, Kallum Norton, 24, had run off early that morning. The word got to Stead’s bridesmaids at around 7 a.m. the day of the wedding.

“[A groomsman] called one of the maids of honor to explain that the groom had ‘gone.’ We were told he had left the caravan they were staying at in Oxwich Bay (the venue) at 12:30 a.m. to visit his family, who were staying in another caravan nearby and hadn’t returned. When they woke in the morning, he was not there and his car had gone,” Jordie Cullen wrote on a GoFundMe page.

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Pop Culture

14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Swings can turn 80-year-olds into 8-year-olds in less that two seconds.

When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.

More and more people of all ages are letting their inner kids out to play, and the feelings are delightfully infectious.

You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.

Here are 14 timeless pleasures to make you feel like a kid again:

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