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NOW Group launch JAM Card app

Gauge NI's parent organisation NOW Group have launched a new app which allows people with communication barriers such as learning disabilities/difficulties, autism, Asperger’s or a brain injury to alert staff in retail outlets, public transport and other areas of public life that the card-holder needs Just A Minute of patience and time when interacting with them.
 
The JAM Card app is a digital innovation from social enterprise NOW Group who support people with learning difficulties into training and employment.  It began as a plastic credit card sized card and was the idea of service users of the organisation who said they often felt under pressure when they were out and about in everyday life and would like a discreet way of letting people know that they needed a little extra time.
 
Digital Solution
 
Hundreds of people are already using the plastic card throughout Northern Ireland which says ‘Just a Minute’ on one side and ‘Please be patient, I have a learning difficulty’ on the other. NOW Group wanted a way to reach more people and felt that developing the card into a digital app would allow more people to access it and could also provide additional functionality as well as data feedback. 
 
The development of the app began thanks to a partnership set up by the Building Change Trust Techies in Residence programme between NOW Group and Ciaran Murray, owner of Creative Metrics. The programme sees organisations from the third sector paired with technology firms to come up with a digital solution to a social problem. 
 
It allowed a prototype of the app to be developed which is now available to download for free for Apple and Android phones. As the app develops additional features will be added including the ability for users to rate the experience they had when using it which will allow businesses and services the opportunity improve the customer service they provide to people with disabilities. 
 
£100,000 Funding
 
The clear potential of the app led to successful funding applications with both Big Lottery Fund and Nominet Trust totalling £100,000. 
 
Big Lottery Fund have provided £50,000, Big Lottery Fund NI Director Joanne McDowell said: “This is a great example of how our funding is putting people in the lead to make the changes they want in their communities. We hope this investment in the development of the NOW Group’s JAM Card will support people with disabilities, groups and services to work together to create new solutions to the issues they face. We want to thank National Lottery players for making this funding possible.”
 
The project received a further £50,000 from UK social tech funder Nominet Trust who support organisations using the internet and digital technology to address social challenges. Vicki Hearn, Director of Nominet Trust, said “With the JAM app, people with additional needs can instantly and discreetly let others know that they might need extra time to get on a bus, or patience from staff when paying in a shop. It’s great to be supporting this amazing social enterprise from Northern Ireland by funding the app’s next stage of development: a TripAdvisor-style platform through which disabled people will be able to give companies a ‘disability rating’. This offers a space for their voices to be heard, and showcases the value of being an accessible business.”
 
Increasing confidence and independence
 
Feedback from users has demonstrated that people feel more confident in public when they use the JAM Card. Some people who would have previously relied on their parents or taxis to travel now feel able to take public transport by themselves as they can show the bus driver their JAM Card and get the extra time they need to buy their ticket. 
 
Partnership and Innovation Manager of NOW Group Jayne McStay comments, “Our hope is that the card and the app will make daily life just a little easier for people with learning difficulties/disabilities, autism and Asperger’s. The great thing about the JAM Card is that was the idea of our service users. At NOW Group we are committed to making a real impact in the lives of the people we work with so we are always keen to listen to their views and problems and co-design solutions where possible.
 
We believe that it will also be beneficial for businesses. It saves embarrassment on both sides if someone is having difficulty in a customer service situation and allows the member of staff the opportunity to be patient and kind when caught up in the hustle and bustle of their job.
 
We are delighted to have received funding from the Big Lottery Fund and Nominet Trust to develop the app and test it among users. So far the JAM Card has impacted hundreds of lives throughout Northern Ireland and our hope is that with the digital innovation of the app this will increase to thousands of people.”
 
Pictured launching the new app are NOW Group service users Francis Fitzsimons and Caoimhe McEvoy. The JAM Card app is available to download for free now from both the Google Play store and the Apple App Store. Credit card sized plastic JAM Cards are also available by getting in touch with the NOW Group on 02890 436400 or emailing admin@nowgroup.org. Find out more at www.nowgroup.org/jamcard. 
 
Call us: 028 9043 6400
Gauge NI: 15-17 Grosvenor Road, Belfast, BT12 4GN