LANSING, Mich. — Okemos resident Cathy Blatnik is preparing her son Dominic for a trip to Wharton Center.
She says she couldn’t take Dominic to public places for years because it would cause him severe anxiety. Dominic has Autism and explaining to him in detail what his day will look like is key to lessening his fear.
Now she utilizes Able Eyes, a company who provides virtual walk-through tours.
Blatnik says it has changed their lives.
“We never were able to go to the Wharton Center because of Dominic. He wasn't used to new places, and it would get him stressed out to the point he would have a meltdown," said Blatnik. "So, we would go in shifts. My daughter and I would go first, and my husband would stay home with Dominic. We couldn’t go out as a family. Now, with these tours, it makes it so much better and there is less stress.”
Mason resident Meegan Winters is the founder of Able Eyes and says the concept is taking off across the globe.
“Able Eyes is a virtual tour hosting site all over the world. It works kind of like Yelp where virtual tours are hosted in one place," said Winters. "So, there is one website where people can go and type in their location or type in the place that they would want to visit. It will show all the virtual tours in that particular area.”
For years, Winters was a special education teacher and worked with many kids on the spectrum. She says having that experience taught her a lot, but her best friend and college roommate, Jessica, inspired her to start the company. Jessica had Muscular Dystrophy.
“With Jessica, the restrooms were number one priority as far as knowing what to expect when we arrived someplace," said Winters. "She had a power wheelchair and to use the restroom and needed to fit her chair in the stall and also me. I needed to be able to have enough room to pick her up out of the chair and transition her onto the toilet.”
Winters says Able Eyes has taken off thanks to the help of local businesses who sign up for the service.
Julie Pingston, CEO of Lansing’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, says Able Eyes is helping to make mid-Michigan a more accessible place to live.
“To see her success and to see her going forward in such a positive way to help people and use her talents in advance that it's just how can you be anything but proud.”
Jordan Munsters, President of High Kaliber Karting and Entertainment, says after a motorcycle accident left him in a wheelchair for 8 months, he knows first-hand how important a service like Able Eyes is.
“That was really humbling thing because I went from being the guy that runs six-minute miles and consistently runs 5-K's to hearing you may never walk again. That’s when I said, Okay, now I really understand what people are going through.”
Kelly Stuible-Clark with Wharton Center says Able Eyes has been a tremendous resource and has helped introduce new audiences to the theater.
“Megan is a good neighbor because her entire drive behind Able Eyes isn't for business purposes. It's because she truly wants to help people in this community," said Stuible-Clark. "I mean, it’s across the country and across the world now. So, it's not just local. I know that she has such a caring heart for folks in this community and wants to help people to be able to feel more comfortable going new places. And I just think that is just such a kindness of your heart type thing to do.”
We agree! Meegan Winters for starting Able Eyes and helping give people new experiences and perspectives, you are this week’s Good Neighbor.
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