Disability Innovations is a blog series that gathers some of the most interesting new products and services that aim to make disabled people’s lives easier. We hope it will inspire more innovation in the disability field.
What is Mifinder?
Mifinder is all about connecting people and building communities, targeting isolation and encouraging networks of support. It is a free app where you sign up, register your profile and are then able to ‘find’ and connect with others around you based on their location. Sound familiar? The unique thing about Mifinder is that it is aimed particularly at groups in society with often higher rates of isolation, and people connect with each other based on a shared ‘life experience’. This could be a visual, hearing or other specific impairment, or an experience such as being new to an area or learning a language. The app enables people to find like-minded others around them wherever they go based on their exact location.
How do I use it?
After downloading the free app (currently only available on the iPhone) you create a profile, involving selecting the communities that you belong to and uploading your profile text and photo. You can then select the communities that you are looking to engage with, and you will be shown the profiles of the closest 120 users who fit that criteria, in order of how far away they are from you at that time. You can see other people’s profiles, and if you would like to connect and chat with them you use the app’s instant messenger. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and founder of Mifinder Gabriel Saclain hopes that the initial online conversation will prompt real offline social experiences, such as going for a coffee. Security is a high priority, and no specific locations are given out until people have decided that they want to meet.
How did the idea come about?
The idea came from Mifinder CEO and founder Gabriel Saclain, who had been working with isolated communities in Brighton. He was struck by some of the challenges faced by groups he worked with, acknowledging the effect of isolation on some communities and the importance of social support for mental well-being. He wanted to create a way for disabled and diverse communities to engage more easily, and while it initially focused on diverse ethnic groups, the app has evolved to focus on specific life experiences. So far over 300,000 users with disabilities have downloaded the app, and over 2 million connections have been made.
Why focus on life experiences?
The life experience groups include people who have visual or hearing impairments, those who have experiences of cancer, those who use a wheelchair, and many others. Mifinder is driven by the principle that people who have gone through similar experiences can have greater mutual understanding, and therefore can offer more support to one another. Support could also come in the form of advice and information. For example if someone with a hearing impairment moved to a new place, they could connect with others with similar experiences and seek advice about accessible venues, local support and information about the area. Mifinder is keen to emphasise that the focus is on community and friendships as opposed to dating, and previous features around dating have been removed from the app.
What is next for Mifinder?
Mifinder is continuously evolving based on what users want and what the creators think would be helpful and exciting to provide. They hope to expand from connecting people to each other, to connecting people to events, groups and organisations around them that relate specifically to their experience. One way of doing this will be to partner with charities and existing support groups. Following from this they hope that people will start to create their own meet ups and groups for people around them. They have loads of exciting plans, so make sure to keep checking out the Mifinder website.
Why we like it
Without assuming that people are only willing or able to connect with those who share similar experiences to them. Mifinder recognises that there can be increased understanding and support when there is a shared significant experience. It provides a way for people to meet in a social environment and share stories and advice, and is driven by the desire to build communities. We like how it recognises the very real issue of isolation, but the potential for what people can gain from it is so wide-ranging.
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