Meet Bruno Mahfuz, founder of Guiaderodas
Bruno Mahfuz was born in 1984, has a degree in business administration and is a wheelchair user since the age of 17, when he suffered a car accident. Since then, he has gone through a collection of experiences due to lack of accessibility.
His life on a wheelchair made him realize that an “Accessible Experience” is not restricted to compliance to rules, but rather to a set of practices that involves infrastructure, customer service and, above all, the awareness of society about the importance of accessibility. Bruno founded Wheelguide, a company for providing information, improving awareness and certifying spaces to provide a more autonomous and inclusive life for all.
In 2016, the Wheelguide app was launched. It is a free and collaborative tool for searching and reviewing the accessibility of places all over the world. As a wheelchair user, his motivation to create the platform was to help people avoid frustrations from the lack of information about accessibility.
“A simple trip to the bakery can be frustrating when you come across a flight of stairs at the entrance”
When people with limited mobility know what they will find, they can choose their destinations more safely, avoiding unpleasant experiences.
He also realized that accessibility is not a matter for people with disabilities only. “Parents with baby strollers, pregnant women, elderly people, those who suffer an injury … accessibility makes life more comfortable for everyone”, says Mahfuz.
Through the app, anyone – with disabilities or not – can review the accessibility of places they visit so that this information is available to society as a whole. Proof that this is an engaging platform is that 80% of users who review on the app are volunteers without disabilities
After two years, the app contains information about locations in more than 1000 cities in 102 countries, and was chosen at the World Summit Awards 2016, organized by the UN, as the best initiative for accessibility and inclusion.In 2018, the app received more international recognition from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU-UN) as the best accessibility application in the Americas.
In addition to the guide of accessible places, Mahfuz created the Wheelguide Certification, which recognizes the best accessibility practices in the world. Its methodology includes the evaluation of the site by different groups: specialized architects, people with disabilities and the people who work there – who are also trained to improve their service for people with any kind of mobility restriction or disability.
Companies or buildings that achieve excellent scores are awarded the Wheelguide Certification, recognizing their excellence in the infrastructure and customer service, which offers well-being to clients and staff, and attracts more customers. “When an idea is good, it is good for everyone” – this is the motto of Wheelguide‘ work.
For his initiative, Bruno Mahfuz was selected by MIT Technology Review as one of the most important innovators under 35 years old in Latin America in 2018.
“Innovators Under 35” is MIT Technology Review’s most prestigious worldwide recognition and aims to recognize the development of new technologies or the creative application of existing technologies to solve the world’s greatest problems.
Paloma Cabello, Senior Counselor for Finance and Strategy and also a member of the MIT Innovators Under 35 jury, believes that Wheelguide is “excellent” and offers “an innovative approach to an old problem with a high and sustainable social impact.”
“Our goal is to cease to exist. One day, the world will be fully accessible and there will no longer be a need for our service.”