New smart phone app to help disabled shoppers in Sunderland

Gary McFarlane and Matty Thorburn showing of the new shopping 'apps' alongside Matty's Jacky White's fruit and veg shop.
Gary McFarlane and Matty Thorburn showing of the new shopping 'apps' alongside Matty's Jacky White's fruit and veg shop.
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NEW technology could revolutionise shopping for disabled Wearsiders.

Entrepreneur Gary McFarlane, with the help of businessman Neil Herron, has developed a smart phone app which allows disabled people to interact with stores and request personal assistance.

As well as letting shoppers place their orders in advance, assist-Mi alerts retailers when the person is arriving, allowing an assistant to take their order straight to their car.

Disabled commuters could also arrange help from train operators before they travel.

Gary is now looking for a dozen disabled volunteers to become the first people to trial the app, with the help of grocer Matty Thorburn, in Jacky White’s Market.

Gary said it was experiences he had due to his own disability that inspired him.

He said; “I’ve needed help reaching things from top shelves or lifting heavy things.

“I always say it’s about the little things, that last five per cent of a journey that make a difference.

“We are looking for a number of disabled users and groups to work with us to pilot the first retail version of the app.

“Matty and his staff’s attitude to customer service meant that it was important to work with an independent retailer as well as some of the big national chains. We have had great interest from councils, banks, airports, rail operators and car park operators.

“It is important for a disabled person that their door-to-door journeys, whether by private or public transport, are not done in isolation.”

Matty said: “We are keen to adopt the assist-Mi service and go the extra mile to help our disabled customers and embrace smart technology.

“Many people now have smartphones and the automatic pre-notification of a customer’s arrival time ensures that we have staff in the right place to give that one-to-one service.

“We believe that assist-Mi will become a tool to reduce the barriers for disabled people accessing goods and services, and we pride ourselves on putting our customers’ needs first.”

Anyone interested in volunteering for the pilot can contact the team on 0845 519 7411 or email

Twitter: @sunechomark