What Next? WelcoMe Hits The High Street

WelcoMe app, a system which has been designed to support disabled people in their interactions with customer service teams has been taken on by forward thinking leader in retail 'Next' in and around Edinburgh, proving exactly what is possible on the High Street. Could this be the retail revolution we've been waiting for?

"For a long time, disabled people have been at pains to let the #HighStreet know that the service they receive is below the standard anyone else would expect. In fact, 70% of disabled people have reported that they have had bad experiences. When you consider that in the UK alone as a group they spend over £270 billion a year annually these stats should worry anyone selling on the high street.

For a long time, I felt that complaining was the route to addressing this issue until I realised that pointing out errors alone just isn't enough and that sometimes you have to come up with ways to actually address the issue.

This is when I came up with the idea of WelcoMe.

I am truly honoured that Next has adopted the service in and around Edinburgh St James QuarterFort Kinnaird Shopping Centre, and Straiton and is using and promoting its existence in order to assist their disabled customers. Could this be the retail revolution we've been waiting for?


My team have loved working with Next over the last few months, introducing them to WelcoMe and helping them innovate their inclusive service. Why not swing by and see for yourself how #personalised and #accessible a shopping experience can be and why not look at how my team can help you in your own efforts to improve your services."


Gavin Neate, Founder of the WelcoMe App




This is how I (Mary Fickling) got to know Gavin....

Back in July 2021, I was editing an article entitled  “Hidden Disabilities” by Nichola Ebbern, Head of Health and Safety at Shepherds Bush Housing Association.  I put out a request on social media for some help to source the origins of an image I wanted to include in the article.

One of the first people to come forward to help was a guy called Gavin Neate, who sent me a direct message on Twitter.  Further chatter ensued and he was very helpful in sourcing other disability references that I needed. This kind of social interaction, we concluded, was ‘one of the better uses of the medium of Twitter!”

I vowed to look up exactly what Gavin did with my next available research time.

It turns out that this very helpful guy at the other end of my Twitter inbox is one helluva entrepreneur and globally acclaimed digital innovator.  Gavin Neate, is the CEO and Founder of Neatebox Limited. Gavin sees a problem and finds a solution.  I asked Gavin if he had a CV, he’d never been asked for that before, he said, “left school, 10 years in the military police, 18 years working for Guide Dogs for The Blind and then I set up my own company”.  I said “that’ll do for me Gavin!”

It was his experience of a blind customer being left to stand for 20 minutes in a well-known department store with no one coming to help him that led to the development of his latest innovation “WelcoMe”…  a Disability aware customer service solution

At recent UN World Summit Awards, Neatebox were described as ‘global champions for inclusion and empowerment' for their latest innovation which helps disabled people get better customer service. It is both a mobile and web-based app which:

  • enhances customer experience

  • raises staff confidence around accessibility and

  • improves the interactions between staff and disabled people 

  • provides instantaneous accessibility training, hints and tips

  • builds lasting relationships

Users of the free disability app create a personal accessibility profile of themselves and their condition and tap which assistance is pertinent to their needs and which is not.  It takes about a minute. Then when they plan to visit a WelcoMe signed up facility (and there are many high-profile organisations on board) their details are passed on.  This enables customer fronting staff at the shop, cafe, bank, hospital or entertainment provider to ensure the correct assistance is ready and waiting for them.

Did you know that

19% of the UK Population have a disability and that

80% of disabled people have ‘hidden impairments”?  


Facts and Figures from Purple Pound (August 2020)


Where there is inaccessibility we need accessibility. Where there is unfairness we need change and as Gavin says in the 30 minute video interview below ‘under x-ray, we all look the same, we are the same and we should be treated the same”. 

Gavin’s way of thinking encourages empowerment and self-care through choice, which is exactly the way it should be.

I really am so glad our paths crossed and I do hope to keep in touch with Gavin and relay to our readers just how the trial of WelcoMe is received at NHS Golden Jubilee Hospital. who are currently trialling the app, the NHS would be a perfect organisation to flagship this for the UK.


John m Griffin of Accessibility.com asks Gavin here all the questions I wanted to..


Take a look at this too, this is how easy and effective it is..