Putting the “Ability” in Disability

The Successes of Entrepreneur James R. Albright

Rain poured down his face as he waited outside an entrance on Grand Valley’s campus. He was cold and wet. The broken handicap button separated him and his wheelchair from the dry inside. At this point, he knew something had to change.

This describes the event which prompted James R. Albright (Jim), to develop Albright Insights. The technology driven problem-solving organization focuses on creating cutting-edge mobile accessibility and navigation applications. Albright Insights’ first project is a mobile application called XcessAble; a wordplay referring to the handicap accessibility features it provides. Architectural specifications for a building are detailed in the application database: accessible building entrances, location of restrooms, heights of faucets and more. As a user accesses the application, the database of specifications is cross-referenced against the user’s physical capabilities to deliver a custom layout of the building. The mobile application, though a powerful tool, is only the first step to raise awareness for people with disabilities.

Jim was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a disease which attacks the muscular system, but it has proven merely a road bump on his entrepreneurial trek. His mother, Deb Albright, said that many children diagnosed with Duchenne are placed in special education programs or kept home from school because life expectancy is rarely beyond the teens. “Now kids are graduating high school; but because they were put into special education programs, they could not go to college since they only had a certificate of completion,” Deb explained, reinforcing the idea to plan for a life beyond high school. Jim is trying to reverse this trend of complacency by publicizing the successes of his business. His altruistic mission has even stretched to China, where he is attempting to show the government that, “people with disabilities can contribute to society.” The word ‘disability’ does not define Jim’s character, and it does not restrict his ability to produce a tool that encourages social responsibility.

XcessAble is pushing for universal design. The American Disabilities Act expanded building standards for modern construction, but structures often adhere to the minimum required code. Only a small percentage of the world has endured climbing an entrance ramp in a wheelchair, and it shows by the way buildings are designed. Jim’s application raises an awareness for these issues, “accessibility for everyone,” as he calls it. “This application is for everyone, not just people with disabilities,” reiterated Jim. If everyone is aware of these accessibility issues, then the design approach can be reformed to accommodate people of all abilities.

Jim’s road in business development fostered an experiential talent that did not get discouraged by adversity. He reminds us that entrepreneurship is larger than its founders. Entrepreneurs serve as advocates for progress, beacons of inspiration and instruments to announce the many opportunities in society.

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