Meet Your Nonprofit - Blue Trunk Foundation

Describe your nonprofit’s mission.
Blue Trunk Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing information about accessibility to make it easier for people to travel in their own city and around the world regardless of their age, disability, or health conditions. Our core service consists of online, accessibility-related information about hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions, and transportation. Individuals using our site will be able to look up whether a specific business has the accessibility features they need. For example, the website will be used to look up parking and bathroom information, wheelchair accessible entrances, braille signage, or tactile emergency alarms. Our services will be provided online through a mobile-optimized, Section 508 compliant website. These services will be expanded to include mobile app platforms after the website is established. Our vision is to be the premier source of reliable information about accessible travel worldwide.

What need in our community brought about the creation of your nonprofit?
Our proposal builds on local and global momentum to improve the ability for individuals with disabilities and the elderly to engage with community spaces. Charlottesville is already invested in making the city more accessible. The City Council approved the ADA Transition Plan in 1995 and updated it in 2013. Jim Herndon and the ADA advisory committee are working toward making Charlottesville more accessible for all through this plan, and our organization supports the overarching goals of the city with regards to accessibility.

Our community has a sizable population that would benefit from improved inclusivity. Locally, over 9% of Charlottesville residents are aged 65 or older, and this number is continuing to grow. The previous census reported almost 7% of Charlottesville residents under the age of 65 as having a disability. As a community that thrives on arts, culture, cuisine, and tourism, there is also an opportunity for our organization to support visitors to the Charlottesville area. Our organization aims to increase awareness of the need for accessible spaces that will accommodate a wide range of local residents and visitors. Moreover, it aims to make it easier for these individuals to visit local businesses by providing reliable information and encouraging businesses to make positive changes.

How has your nonprofit made a difference in our community?
Given that our organization is in its first year, our primary impact has been generating multiple community conversations on the topic of accessibility of local businesses. We have met with community leaders to begin forming collaborations related to our joint missions. We intend for Charlottesville to be one of our initial launch sites, and this will take place in 2017.

How can community members help you achieve your mission?
Our service has two main components, and we hope to engage community members in both. The first key component of Blue Trunk’s service is providing objective information about business (e.g. hotels, restaurants) accessibility. This information includes characteristics of the physical space (e.g. ramps, grab bars) and services provided (e.g. braille menus, ASL interpreters). Information about businesses will be crowd sourced using a checklist we developed. We will rely on community members to help complete checklists for local businesses. The second key component of our service is a blog containing articles that detail personal experiences, tips, and resources for traveling with a specific condition. We hope to engage community members in writing about their experiences, including providing tips to others traveling around the Charlottesville area.

Tell us a story that has come out of your work
The idea for Blue Trunk Foundation came from Rupa’s personal experiences traveling before and after becoming disabled. Since it was based on a personal experience, we weren’t sure to what degree it would resonate with others in the community. Over the past year we have had discussions with community members living with and community organizations serving people with a wide range of cognitive, sensory, and physical disabilities. The stories we heard exposed us to a range of needs beyond what we had expected. We heard from a father with an autistic child and learned about the need to find spaces within airports that do not trigger sensory overload. We heard from a daughter who provides care to her father after a stroke and learned about the hours she spends finding restaurants with family bathrooms. We heard from the director of Camp Holiday Trails about the need for parents of children with disabilities to have resources that better enable them to choose an appropriate camp experience. These stories and others have continued to shape our understanding of the many challenges individuals with disabilities face when traveling and the potential for Blue Trunk to be a central place for all these people to find and discuss information about accessible and inclusive travel.

Learn more about Blue Trunk Foundation.

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