MikeElkerton_MAINACCESS expert Mike Elkerton has started the year with plenty to cheer about.

First he was awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours list for his services to disabled people.

Now he’s celebrating the early success of his company’s mobile app that makes it easier – and safer – for disabled people to evacuate public buildings during emergencies.

Mike said he was completely shocked and very honoured when he learned about his MBE.

“I’m absolutely over the moon. I’ve been working for years to make buildings more accessible for disabled people, so to be given this honour is the icing on the cake.”

Mike suffered mobility problems following an accident in 1993, and was later asked to join Chester Zoo as its disability officer.

After 10 years at the zoo, he trained to become accredited by the National Register of Access Consultants, and has since audited some of the country’s most iconic venues, including Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium and the new Wembley Stadium, which he assessed in the lead-up to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Premier League football stadiums, such as those belonging to Arsenal and Manchester City, have also been audited by Mike – plus Manchester’s Trafford Centre and Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

But emergency evacuation procedures have always been an issue with Mike, which led to him and four other access experts to setting up the Birkenhead-based company, Access and Evacu8.

The The DirectMii app, due to be trialled at the Houses of Parliament and the Tower of London, lets disabled customers use their mobile phones to view pictorial directions to a location within public venues such as cinemas or hospitals.

But it can also alert staff that a disabled person is in the building, and provide a series of pictures that direct people to the most appropriate emergency exit.

It also allows the customer to contact the venue if their access needs are not being met.

Although organisations pay a small fee of about £10 a year to join the scheme, individual disabled users can access the basic service free of charge.

In its first six weeks more than 5,000 people have downloaded the app.

Liverpool Airport, Blackpool Pleasure Beach, as well as several universities, hospitals and local authorities have all signed up.

The company is now working with the University of Glasgow to produce a new version of the app which would automatically inform a venue that a disabled person is inside the building the moment they arrive.

Mike also chairs the north-west branch of the Access Association.

He said it was frustrating that large parts of the country were still not accessible to disabled people, more than 20 years after the Disability Discrimination Act became law.

“Even now, if you go to the local barber you have a step to go over. It is so simple to be able to do this, but still people are fighting for their rights.

“How many restaurants would be able to give you a menu in Braille or large print?

“Access should be the norm everyone should be entitled to.”

Tel 0151 345 3360