Disabled people will get simpler-than-ever access to information about a vast range of products and services when a new internet search engine - based in North Staffordshire - launches this spring.
Access-Global is the brainchild of local businessman Philip Anderson and will give businesses nationwide the chance to promote 'disabled-friendly' services through a website.
As a registered blind person himself, Philip knows only too well the challenges which disabled people can face in finding out about products and services that will suit their needs.
"I understand just how frustrating it is not always being able to access information effectively - even with the internet. You can finish up scrolling through endless web pages before finding the information you need," he said.
Philip, managing director of Braille Transcription UK in Stoke on Trent, decided to do something about it himself and teamed up with IT specialist Jonathan Hulme to develop a disabled-friendly search engine that would be the best on the net. "We came up with the idea of creating a search engine that is clean, easy to use and is accessible to all," said Philip.
The project received an early boost when it won the top prize in last summer's Let's Do Enterprise contest for budding entrepreneurs, organised by North Staffs Business Brokers. Impressed with the plan, the judging panel awarded the Access-Global team £2,000 to take the scheme further.
"That £2,000 prize was extremely valuable in helping to get the project off the ground and we also received some real encouragement from the judges. Over the past year we have invested around £10,000 each and hundreds of hours work in getting to the stage we are at now," said Philip.
Powered by Digipigeon management software, which was developed by Keele University graduate Jonathan, the Access-Global site will allow users to quickly find information on products and services ranging from transport to employment, restaurants to specialist equipment - in fact just about anything this is accessible to people with a disability.
As well as a standard screen display, information will be available in a large print, audio and Braille formats and there are even plans for a phone-based system for people who don't have access to the internet.
Completely free to the public, Access-Global will cover its costs by charging businesses an annual subscription for promotional space.
Telesales staff are recruiting businesses to appear on the site, offering an annual sub-scription at a special discount price of £350 during the pre-launch phase from February until the end of April.
"This is not for specialist products. It's an opportunity for mainstream businesses and organisations of every type to promote that they comply with the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and that they offer a disabled-friendly service," said Jonathan Hulme.
"The project is all about championing good practice and that includes the standards on the website, so we will be checking and verifying all content that is submitted by businesses.
"We will also include disability news and hopefully act as a resource so that businesses can share best practice on implementing the DDA," he added.
Having already found national success with his Braille transcription business, Philip Anderson feels that the 'birth' of Access-Global is like getting a new lease of life.
"This is a new and exciting project and I am delighted with the way it has grown. We have received very positive feedback both from organisations that support the disabled and from companies who want to appear on the website," he said.
Business Broker Adele Cope said that Access-Global was an excellent success story for the Let's Do Enterprise scheme, which aimed to help entrepreneurs launch their projects.
"It was a clear winner of the competition. Philip really impressed the panel with his passion for this project," she said. "It's a great idea and he is the right person to take it forward."
Access-Global.com will go live on the internet following its official launch in early May.
* Businesses interested in taking space on the site can contact the team on 08458 620670 or email firstname.lastname@example.org