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Courtesy Enable

University of Calgary graduate students’ start-up seeks to break down barriers

By Shelbi Bartlett, June 14 2016 —

company founded by two University of Calgary graduate students could participate in a global contest focused on breaking down social barriers for the disabled community.

Sue Crawford and Michael Purdy created Enable to match people with disabilities with caregivers through an online platform.

Crawford and Purdy applied for their start-up company to feature at the Global Healthcare Innovation Academy Wildcard Competition, which takes place at Telus Spark in Calgary August 25–26.

Crawford is already a registered nurse and has provided respite care for three different families. She said there are multiple issues when it comes to caring for those with disabilities.

“I’ve had this idea for quite a while,” Crawford said. “It has been a pain point for a lot of families. They don’t know where to get caregivers and there’s just not enough traction in the community for caregiving roles.”

Crawford said families can find caregivers through other platforms, but can end up paying $50–$60 an hour for highly-trained individuals.

Crawford said another issue is that while one in seven people over the age of 15 report having some form of disability, public spaces aren’t always accessible.

“People with disabilities don’t use public spaces in the same way or the same amount as people without disabilities,” Crawford said.

Purdy, a biomedical engineering master’s student, said people can be intimidated if they feel they don’t know how to interact with people with disabilities.

Crawford and Purdy said Enable’s goal is to engage people with disabilities in the community through casual activities with their caregivers, such as playing sports or going out for drinks.

“You don’t need a [registered nurse] playing Frisbee,” Crawford said.

While Enable will target U of C students to become caregivers due to their flexibility and desire to build their resumes, the platform will also accept other community members as caregivers.

The service aims to match people based on availability, interests and training.

Crawford said Enable will perform police record checks and vulnerable sector searches before hiring applicants as caregivers.

“Families will also be encouraged to interview the support workers beforehand to ensure they’re a good fit,” Purdy said. “I think we’ll have a larger care-pool [than formal caregiving organizations] because we won’t need highly trained people.”

Lynn Slater, who has a teenage daughter with a disability, sees the potential in Enable.

“Although my daughter has disabilities, she wants what all kids want — acceptance, fun, making memories and the excitement of sharing new adventures, away from her everyday world,” Slater said. 

Along with the GHIAWC, Crawford and Purdy will also enter Enable in Alberta BoostR, a crowd-funding platform created by ATB Financial.

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