Yaoxu Zong ’22 is making independent travel possible for everyone

headshot of a student

Being stunned by the Great Pyramids of Giza, getting the best sushi in Japan and tanning on the beaches of Pattaya are on a lot of people’s bucket lists. In fact, when asked, people will say traveling is one of their favorite hobbies. Yaoxu Zong ’22, an Industrial and Interactions Design student in the School of Design, loves traveling as well, especially the experience of independent solo traveling.

With a shared love for travel, Zong and his teammate Emme Perkins used their hobby as an inspiration for the DES 400 Intelligence ++ program. Zong and Perkins came up with Rethinking Travel – an app that could help people, especially people with intellectual disabilities, to be able to travel independently.

Usually, people with intellectual disabilities travel with friends, family or someone who can provide them guidance. With Rethinking Travel, people can schedule a support group or a guide ahead of time in the areas that they would need help with. Most people do not need someone to help them all the time – it could only be to communicate or for getting to places. The help they need can be tailored to anything they need along the trip.

Zong has been talking to Micah and Augus from the Intelligence ++ program to give him insight on what people with disabilities really need and want. Rethinking Travels aims to empower people with disabilities and provide their worried loved ones a peace of mind.

Currrently, the team is also working with the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University Libraries at Bird Library. Zong and Perkins also won a $500 Impact Prize – Intelligence ++ prize award recently for their work.

Rethinking Travel is now in the stages of prototyping and user testing. After it launches, Zong hopes the app the branch out to help elderly people or people with language barriers as well.

Zong says that the design school emphasizes on the importance of inclusivity in product designs and he is really enjoying learning more about the disability community and inclusivity through Rethinking Travel and Intelligence ++ class.

Story by LaunchPad Global Fellow Natalie Lui ‘22; photo supplied