Alumni News

June 25, 2013 at 5:23 pm

AccessAble Travel: Keeping the Fun in Travel

Alex Bill, Francis Weiner, Ben Weiner, and Ryan Cox (from left)

Alex Bill, Francis Weiner, Ben Weiner, and Ryan Cox (from left)

 

“We just got back from Chicago and had a really smooth journey.  The Pier was fun and didn’t have many stairs to get into the shops and restaurants,” says the AccessAble website, whose founders want to make travel easier for people with physical disabilities.

AccessAble, LLC is a travel and lifestyle website, catering to people with physical disabilities. When visiting goaccessable.com, users will find an interactive and informative website that provides ratings, reviews, and guides of popular destinations and recommended locales. These places may include restaurants, parks, airports, museums, etc. In addition, the site provides a social environment containing blogs and forums updated by fellow travelers.

“Our mission is to give users an easier and more enjoyable experience while on our site and throughout their travels,” say the founders, Ben Weiner, Frances Weiner, and Alex Bil.

They founded AccessAble Travel, one of six startup projects selected by the Innovation Engine Accelerator for an intensive 12-week summer program designed to advance entrepreneurship in Ohio. The program began May 28 and runs through Aug. 16 at Ohio University’s Innovation Center in Athens. The selected startups are eligible to receive up to $20,000 in funding from the program. Participants will refine their business models and products, receive expert entrepreneurial coaching and advice and have the opportunity to pitch their startups to investors at the end of the summer.

Ben and Frances Weiner are siblings from Morgantown, WV. Ben graduated in 2013 from Ohio University’s Russ College of Engineering and Technology with a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. Frances also graduated from Ohio University in 2013 with a degree in Psychology. Alex Bill is originally from Chagrin Falls, OH, and dual majored in Psychology and Sociology-Criminology at Ohio University. Ben explained that he is most looking forward to gaining real-world experience and learning the business aspect of developing their company during the program. Together, Alex, Ben and Frances hope to open accessibility to major U.S. cities for those with special needs, eventually expanding internationally. Ryan Cox is from Morgantown, WV, and a recent graduate of West Virginia University with a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies, focusing on Sociology, Geography, Leadership and Communication Studies.

Frances Weiner comes to AccessAble for two primary reasons, according to their website: “She has a strong passion for adventure and has spent numerous hours scrolling through different traveling websites. Given her past, traveling is both a hobby and her area expertise. Also, Frances suffered a foot injury two years ago, which continues to impact her life today. After wheeling her way through international airports, she understands the challenges to traveling with a disability. Her goal is to make life easier for others who face similar obstacles.”

Alex Bill is a recent graduate of Ohio University, and his bio says he is “the son of two healthcare workers, he grew up surrounded by people working to overcome a whole variety of physical challenges.  Alex is excited to work with such a dynamic and motivated team to develop a site that will truly simplify and improve the traveling experience for the whole family.”

Four of this summer’s six Innovation Engine Accelerator start-ups involve students and alumni of Ohio University’s College of Arts & Sciences.

Ohio University’s Center for Entrepreneurship (administered by the College of Business and the Voinovich School for Leadership and Public Affairs) is providing intense Lean Launch curriculum, based on Stanford University’s successful model for startups, as well as experienced venture capital advisors to participants. Startups may use 1,000 sq. ft. of creative shared space with pods for each business and can access conference rooms, equipment and software.

Dozens of mentors—startup entrepreneurs; seed, angel and  venture investors; C-level industry executives; technical specialists; professional service providers and venture development executives—will provide intensive business coaching to the startups. The program offers no or low-cost legal assistance through its attorney-in-residence partner Bricker & Eckler for easy company formation.

The Innovation Engine Accelerator is part of a series of initiatives designed to address the surge of digital media entrepreneurs emerging from Ohio University and throughout Ohio. More details about the program are available at www.innovationengineaccelerator.com.

Program sponsors include TechGROWTH Ohio (a public/private partnership administered by Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs), WesBanco, Athenian Ventures, CreMedia, IMGUR, Ohio University’s Innovation Center, Vice President for Research and Creative Activity, Center for Entrepreneurship, Scripps College of Communication, Russ College of Engineering and Technology and College of Arts & Sciences.

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