It all started at Six Flags. Rebecca Alexander (pictured above) was just 18 and on a high-school trip to the theme park, but what should have been a day filled with fun and excitement with her friends quickly turned into a day of anxiety. She remembers clearly her uneasiness as she wondered if she would be able to fit on the rides — or if she'd have to watch her friends having all the fun without her.
"I have scrolled through more photos of ravioli than you can imagine, when all I really want to know is if a restaurant's booths have tables that move or tables that are bolted down."
Since that day, Alexander began noticing a pattern. She was surprised by the amount of research she had to do . . . just to comfortably go out in public. Accessibility issues didn't seem to be a priority for businesses. That realization spurred her and colleague Michele Amar to come up with the idea for a new app to help people answer the question: Can we all go?
AllGo, currently in the Kickstarter phase, will be a review app specifically designed for plus-size people to rate the comfort and accessibility of public places.
"I have scrolled through more photos of ravioli than you can imagine, when all I really want to know is if a restaurant's booths have tables that move or tables that are bolted down," Alexander tells me. "Having to do all of this research all the time really dampened my desire to go out. It was just too hard to find what I needed to know."
I can relate. As someone who is physically disabled, I'm incredibly excited about the further implications of AllGo. The world is most definitely not created for people with disabilities or, to borrow a phrase from writer Roxane Gay, otherwise "unruly bodies." Sure, we have the landmark Americans With Disabilities Act, which I'm so thankful for, but even that is limited. Sometimes, I get to feeling like we're an afterthought, as if we're expected to mold and conform our lives to the larger world around us. But the reality? Living in a disabled body in an able-bodied world is next to impossible when you have physical limitations and your body tells you, "Nope. I can't do this."
A drawing of some of AllGo's notable supporters, created by artist Nikki May
I was born with a genetic bone and muscular disorder. I can only walk a short distance with a walker and rely on an electric wheelchair every day. My wheelchair is big and bulky, which makes going places a bit of a challenge sometimes. I see other people my age — able-bodied people — decide they want to do something or go somewhere and just hop in the car. They can go to things like restaurants and concerts and museums with relative ease. It's not nearly as easy for me. Inevitably, there are a whole bunch of questions that come up...
*Is there handicapped parking?
*Is there handicapped seating?
*Are there ramps to get into the building?
*Will I be able to easily open the doors of the building?
*Are the restrooms big enough?
*Are there elevators?
Many of these questions are the same questions Alexander was asking every time she ventured out. She started wondering if other people of size went through the same thing, so she became more vocal about her experiences. As it turns out, she wasn't alone.
Alexander hopes to leverage those shared experiences with her app. "AllGo reviews are straight from the source: plus-size people like us who've been there before and want to share our experiences. We'll be able to rate places like restaurants, theaters, airlines and gyms," she says.
The Kickstarter campaign is well underway, and the goal is to raise $50,000 by April 8. People from all walks of life, from feminists to writers to people in the body-positivity movement (hi, Roxane Gay and Tess Holliday!) have already pledged their support.
A still from AllGo's Kickstarter video
"We're seeking backing from our community through Kickstarter because we believe that the first review website designed with plus-size people in mind should have our community's support," says Alexander. "We want to build the AllGo plus-size people want."
In 2018, this type of app is desperately needed. In fact, it's long overdue. We're finally living in an age where things like body positivity, accessibility, and inclusion are no longer taboo topics, pushed to the back of the conversation — if talked about at all. Thankfully, these concerns have moved to the forefront and key players like AllGo are leading the way, blazing a trail of innovative change and leading a revolution. And it's about time.
I tell Alexander an app like AllGo — while initially intended for the plus-size community — would also be life-changing for me. Actually, it would be life-GIVING. I could easily read reviews and get a "feel" for places before I even go. It would definitely save me a lot of time and energy, cutting down on my frustration that would inevitably ensue when I'd go somewhere and realize it's not accessible.
"We are so glad AllGo will be useful beyond the plus-size community," Alexander says. "In the future, we expect our product will fully reflect the reality of our intersectional world. We hope to be able to accommodate all people and truly answer the question, 'Can we all go?'"