News, Updates, and Stories from the WayAround Team

How My Dad Impacted My Work in Accessible Tech

Darwin Belt and Jessica Hipp standing in front of a WayAround exhibit booth

Recently a few people have asked me how I got involved in WayAround. Since my Dad is the main reason I do what I do with WayAround AND Father’s Day is right around the corner, this seemed like a great occasion to share that story.

How WayAround Started

Darwin Belt, WayAround cofounder, is actually my dad! He lost his eyesight in his early 30s (around the time I was born) due to diabetic retinopathy. It was surgically corrected, and he’s had low vision, color blindness, and night blindness ever since.

After he retired from a successful career developing software for architects, he reconnected with his college friend and former business partner, Armand Fisher. They caught up on their careers, their families, and also their shared experience of sight loss. 

Armand lost nearly all of his eyesight in his late-50s due to a virus that attacked his retina, and he shared that getting the details about public spaces – especially in a restroom – is particularly challenging. Since Armand and Darwin are both architects, they know how to communicate all of the little details about public spaces with lots of different people: general contractors, electricians, plumbers, and more. They could use that expertise to provide meaningful details about the built environment for people with vision loss.

And thus, WayAround was born.

At some point, Darwin realized that he and Armand had more than an idea. They had a business. And they needed someone to manage that business. That’s where I enter the story.

Ensuring WayAround Meets Real Accessibility Needs

I do a lot to keep WayAround running, but the most important part of my job is making sure that the WayAround system is meeting real needs. So I get to talk to lots of people to hear about what’s challenging about vision loss, and what’s not. What solutions are working for you, and what could be easier. That’s how we expanded from focusing on public spaces to tagging things at home. We realized that a system that allowed you to enter unlimited details about pretty much anything could make everyday life easier, and we wanted to share it!

After the app launched, Darwin could confidently choose a matching outfit for the first time in his adult life. Armand was able to safely take medications without double-checking everything with his wife. And today, people have made hundreds of thousands of things permanently accessible using WayAround, so they never again have to ask someone, “What’s this?”

Your stories, your challenges, and your celebrations are what keep us going to bring greater accessibility to where you live, work, play. YOU are the heartbeat of WayAround.

What Makes WayAround Different

Our users tell us some pretty consistent things about what makes WayAround different:

  • There’s a tag for everything – as one person put it, “wet, dry, hot, cold, inside, outside, there’s a WayTag that will work!”
  • Personalized solutions – Gives you meaningful details that AI cannot. Describe your things how YOU need to, with what matters to you.
  • Customer service – When you call or email WayAround, you’ll get a human on the other side every time. (Spoiler alert: It’s usually me!)
  • Convenience – all of your information is on your smartphone, the device you already have with you, and it’s automatically backed up to the cloud.

And the reason people feel that way about WayAround is because of my dad, Darwin Belt. He thinks of all the details. He finds a way to make the app both simple AND flexible. And if you think of something that he hasn’t thought of yet (which doesn’t happen often), he will listen and find a way to solve that problem.

If you’d like to help me wish Darwin a Happy Father’s Day, please leave us a review and let us know how WayAround has made a difference for you.

To the fathers, grandfathers, and father-figures…Happy Father’s Day! May you feel celebrated and appreciated for all the ways YOU make a difference.

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