Durham optometrist becomes world's first to install new accessible app

The optical practice, Simon Berry Optometrist, has introduced a technology that offers customised support for visitors with disabilities

Durham-based Simon Berry Optometrist has become the world’s first optical practice to install Neatebox’s accessible WelcoMe platform.

The customer service platform enables users to create a personalised accessibility profile and plan or request assistance in advance of arriving at a venue.

In turn, the app informs venue staff of customer needs and provides a reminder to enable them to prepare adjustments. The system also offers tips and in-the-moment training to staff to help provide the best support for disabled visitors.

The digital solution also provides customers with key accessibility information about the venue ahead of time, along with what assistance is available.

“It’s a great feeling to be the first optometrist to install the Neatebox technology,” Simon Berry, optometrist and practice owner told OT. “I think it is such an essential bit of kit that it should only be a few years before it is commonly used everywhere. It is nice to be the first to introduce it to our industry.”

The practice strives to be accessible, Mr Berry explained: “We try to make ourselves as accessible as possible and make people feel comfortable, so I just loved the idea of the app.”

bubble machine
The Simon Berry Optometrist practice has been designed to be wheelchair friendly and suitable for children and people with disabilities, including a bubble machine in the treatment room

Following a few trial weeks, the app has now been officially launched in the practice.

Mr Berry highlighted that the WelcoMe app enables better communication between staff and service users.

When a patient registers on the system, the practice receives an email with their requirements. Then, when the patient is 200 metres away from the practice, the team receives a notification making them aware that the patient is approaching, giving them time to implement any requirements.

Mr Berry explained this could include meeting a partially sighted person at the door, or providing a pair of ear defenders for a patient with autism.

Additionally, in the practice environment post-lockdown, patients can make the practice aware if they cannot wear a mask for a medical reason.

“I’m really keen that all our patients feel comfortable and relaxed when visiting our practice,” Mr Berry commented. “Sometimes, patients with a disability can be nervous because they don’t know whether a member of staff will recognise they have a disability, or know how to deal with their needs.

“Equally, staff can be nervous when a patient with a disability presents themselves. They might not be confident in how to deal with their needs, or feel able to ask whether they need any extra help. Non-medical staff might not fully understand a patient’s condition.”

The app removes the element of uncertainty, and helps both the practice team and customers feel more confident, Mr Berry suggests.

Gavin Neate, founder and CEO at Neatebox, welcomed the practice as a “superb partner” for the WelcoMe platform, commenting: “I truly feel that customer service, the training of staff and the interactions that disabled people have is long overdue a shake up and we are truly excited that Simon is going to help bring attention to every aspect with this solution.”