About the event
The Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce is pleased to host Simon Sansome, Founder of Snowball Community, for an insightful fireside chat about his Snowball Community App, which serves as the leading “TripAdvisor” style app for the disabled community.
Simon will share Snowball’s creation story and his own motivation for creating an app that has been making waves by improving accessibility information and reviews for disabled travelers. Real and reliable reviews are critical because even when pre-arranged, accessibility measures can fail to materialise when they are needed, leaving disabled passengers stuck for lengthy intervals or derailing their travel plans altogether, leading to serious disappointment when they believed assurances that their needs would be catered for.
According to the WHO’s 2011 World Disability Report, over 1 billion people worldwide live with some form of disability. This represents 15% of the world’s population. Disabilities, including issues with mobility, vision, hearing, and cognition, can pose distinct challenges for travelers in accessing facilities, transportation, accommodation in many countries and even reaching some destinations.
The Commonwealth’s 2018 Disability Report indicates that approximately 1 in 7 Commonwealth citizens have a disability. This equals around 160 million individuals. Only 20% of Commonwealth countries currently have anti-discrimination laws that specifically cover disability. Just over 50% of Commonwealth countries have yet to implement enforceable national accessibility standards. This impacts access to buildings, transportation, housing, and more. As of 2018, nearly 30% of Commonwealth member states had not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
People with disabilities continue to experience barriers to inclusion and empowerment. Recent initiatives like the Snowball App help provide up-to-date insights into real-world accessibility. However, increased regular data collection across the Commonwealth is needed to fully assess progress over time. Issues with accessibility and inclusion affect disabled citizens’ access to health services, education, employment, and participation in the community.
Significant gaps exist in accessible infrastructure and transport systems. For example, only 25% of Commonwealth countries report that most public places and transport systems are fully accessible. While approximately 65% state that less than half of all private businesses provide full accessibility. Availability of assistive products and technologies for vision, hearing, mobility and cognition disabilities vary greatly across the Commonwealth. On average only 45-55% of assistive products are affordable and available.
By sharing reviews and information on accessibility, apps like Snowball aim to address these gaps and ensure the disabled community has equal access to travel, services and opportunities across the Commonwealth. The Snowball App gives disabled travelers a valuable source of reliably crowdsourced insights and information on accessibility in an era when official data is lacking. User generated reviews help fill information gaps while driving improvements.
During this fireside chat, Simon will share his vision for Snowball, update us on the latest trends in accessibility, and furnish us with insights on the kinds of innovation which are still desperately needed in order to include the disabled community more fully in all aspects of life in our modern world.
Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions during a moderated Q&A session. We hope you’ll join us for this important conversation on building a more inclusive world for everyone.
Founder of Snowball Community App
Simon is the founder of Snowball Community, a global disability app which allows users to read and write reviews on how accessible a place is. Available on Android and Apple devices, the app has had 40,000 reviews in 12 months making it the biggest disability app in the world and helping empower thousands of disabled people every day.
Simon sustained a life changing injury when he was 32 which left him disabled from the waist down, and forcing him to take early retirement. Simon decided to go to De Montfort University (DMU) to study Journalism and pursue his passion for writing. In 2016, while at DMU, Simon set up a Facebook Snowball Community with the idea of raising awareness of, and improving, disabled access. His award-winning campaign has had a global impact and the page now reaches more than 20 million people a month.
Simon is also an award winning film and documentary producer after his life story was brought by Amazon Prime and his film ‘Access All Areas’ won 16 international film awards, including best film. Simon has also received a number of major awards in his own right, being named in the top ten of the most influential people in the UK 2023. This year Simon won the Digital and Tech award at the Disability Power 100 and the prestigious Santander X national award, and will be representing the UK at the Santander Glodal awards 2024.
Chairman, Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce
Julia is the founding and managing partner of Charltons, an award winning Hong Kong corporate finance Hong Kong law firm. Julia is admitted as a solicitor in Hong Kong, England and Wales and the BVI. She practises in the field of corporate finance, including M&A, private equity, securities, virtual assets and funds.
Julia is a member of the Commonwealth Enterprise & Investment Council (CWEIC)’s Global Advisory Council. She is also a member of several Hong Kong boards and committees, most notably The Takeovers and Mergers Panel and the Takeovers Appeals Committee of the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission and the Listing Review Committee of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Julia is also a Senior Fellow of the Hong Kong Securities and Investment Institute.