Emmeline Perkins ’22 creates an inclusive travel app

Student against a blue sky

When you think of design, you normally picture fashion, fancy clothes, and creativity. Emmeline Perkins, a fifth year VPA Industrial and Interactive Design major with a minor in fashion design, always envisioned using her design major to create products to help solve problems. While she has great ambitions to eventually create products geared to the outdoors, she is currently working on a project that can change the game for those who have an intellectual disability.

Ever since high school, Emme has always been the athletic, strong, independent, go- getter in life. She had a passion for the outdoors, design, and helping people with her creative mind, and so she knew Industrial and Interactive Design was for her. After high school, Emme attended Rochester Institute of Technology with hopes to gain her college experience and her degree; however, she realized that this school wasn’t the place she wished to achieve that. With great thought and consideration, Emme knew she wanted to transfer, but to where? She had consulted with many friends and heard amazing stories about Syracuse University, so with excitement, she transferred into the design program at Syracuse.

Since her time at Syracuse, she has kept herself busy not only with the projects she completes but also being part of Women in Design and Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA). Emme is currently enrolled in DES 400 led by VPA School of Design professor Don Carr, a collaboration with InclusiveU and the Blackstone LaunchPad.  The course has given her the opportunity to work with Inclusive U students as part of the Intelligence ++ Program.

As a result of her bubbly personality, and great listening skills, she has led herself and her team to be very successful. An admirable trait about Emme is her willingness to always improve herself, “I’ve been working on finding the balance between talking and listening and always making sure I’m engaging with people to provoke ideas for the project.” Furthermore, she is a great team leader who constantly engages in other people’s ideas to make sure they are working as a team and supporting one another.

Emme’s idea for the semester-long project was born when she and her partner, Robin, were on a walk talking with their TA, Micah, who has an intellectual disability. As they were discussing travel, they realized Micah only travels with people or to places he knows. They asked themselves, “What if he could travel by himself but still had support a different way?” She realized that traveling wasn’t a very inclusive activity and noticed those who may be physically impaired are more assisted, but those who are intellectually disabled don’t have the same support. She knew this had to change, and she wanted to create an app that allows individuals who have intellectual disabilities to travel more independently.

Emme and her Intelligence ++ teammates created Story by Sydney Grosso, Zaccai Foundation Fellow at the LaunchPad; photo supplied

a brilliant travel app, Parrot, which allows individuals with intellectual disabilities to travel and plan trips independently. The idea of Parrot originated from the symbolism that people with all abilities should be able to fly with freedom. It particularly supports people with intellectual disabilities. The app would include features on-call support through certified and background checks on individuals who would provide help with logistics as well as local recommendations. She hopes to start with teachers on this app that have certifications to work with a specialized group of individuals.

The presentation for Parrot won one of the three top prizes in the recent LaunchPad sponsored Impact Prize – Intelligence ++ competition.

There is no doubt Emme’s vision for Parrot could make a lifelong impact for the disability community and could have wider applications for elderly travelers or others who need extra support while traveling solo.

She aspires to, in the future, continue working on this thoughtful idea. If anyone could accomplish such a stellar idea, it would be Emmeline Perkins.