AN EDINBURGH business whose app helps people with disabilities navigate everyday situations is looking to raise half a million pounds to help make its technology more widely available.

Neatebox originally came up with an app called Button that allows visually impaired people to operate pedestrian crossings via their mobile phones rather than having to disorientate themselves by having to locate a button.

It has since developed this into its Welcome function, which enables shops and other service providers to be better prepared to deal with customers with a range of disabilities.

Founder Gavin Neate, who previously worked as a mobility instructor at the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, said: “The thing I saw as a massive issue was customer service, but customer services departments say they don’t know how to deal with disabled people, especially if someone has a hidden disability – and 70 per cent of all disabled people have a hidden disability.

“We thought it would be good to use the same technology as Button to let businesses know before the person walks through the door who they are and give them an overview of their disability.”

Users of the app programme in their details and give an indication of when they plan to visit a particular service. That alerts the service to the kind of extra support the user might require so they are prepared to, for example, approach someone with hearing loss from the front and give them the opportunity to talk to someone in an area with low levels of background noise.

The user’s mobile phone interacts with a so-called geo-fence installed at the business so it knows exactly when the customer is arriving.

The app is already gaining traction, with Edinburgh Airport, Royal Bank of Scotland and the Double Tree Hilton all currently using it.

Neatebox is now looking to raise £500,000 so it can grow its one-person marketing department, with the aim of reaching a wider customer base. It also plans to take its software development capabilities in-house.

“We are trying to grow our venues and we also need in-house developers,” Mr Neate said.

“We’re having to go external at the moment, which is difficult because they have big contracts [which take priority. We’re really keen to develop other ideas, for example with buttons on doors.

“You could be at the door of a hospital and the phone would press the button and would inform the dialysis department that you have arrived.”

Mr Neate said that while the firm had considered going down the crowdfunding route to raise the cash it decided to instead focus on private investors who could also act as business mentors.

“We’re looking for funding plus mentorship,” he said. “This has the potential to be enormous but we don’t have the experience of business [to drive that].”

Neatebox is also focusing on rolling out Button, which last year was installed in all the pedestrian crossings in Largs.

“Last year we were approached by an organisation called TranServ, which is responsible for all the trunk roads in Scotland,” Mr Neate said.

“They asked us to put Button in some crossings in Largs then in July 2017 our kit was installed in every single crossing in Largs.

“Since then lots of people have been saying ‘there’s something to this’.

“The plan now is to get this in every single pedestrian crossing in the world.”

As with Welcome, Button works by the phone interacting directly with a sensor in the crossing, without the user having to take it out of their pockets.

It also allows the sound on crossings - which is generally switched off overnight in built-up areas but which visually impaired people rely on to safely cross the road - to be activated only when the app is in use.