Melanie Isaacs: An Entrepreneur’s Story
I met Melanie through a mutual friend and I was impressed with her immediately. Her venture, PAL Experiences, which she explains in her post below, is an exceptional idea. Melanie attends the SEED SPOT evening program and she’s doing amazing work in our community and beyond.
What do we like most about Melanie? That’s easy – she thinks big! She’s proof that nothing is more powerful than the desire to make a difference. In short, we think she’s awesome and we hope you do too!
If you are reading this, we instantly have something in common: We think accessibility is important and that brettapproved rocks! Providing a tool that helps individuals with mobility related challenges navigate their community is genius. I believe brettapproved opens doors, so anyone can confidently find the comfiest hotel bed in LA, the most amazing fried pickles in town, or a happy hour with great deals that’s truly accessible.
I met Brett because we have similar missions. I also want to provide a tool that helps individuals navigate their community. My name is Melanie, and I work to make facilities and events accessible to individuals with intellectual disabilities. Our organization is called PAL Experiences. We create tools that are the neurological version of a physical ‘curb cut’ so people with intellectual disabilities can also explore their community with confidence.
How did I get here?
I am a zoologist by trade but accessibility has always been a part of my life. Both of my uncles had Muscular Dystrophy. Going on adventures with them was never easy. We were constantly calling ahead to be sure the museum had a ramp, or the Pizza Hut had a bathroom my Uncle Brian could use. We needed brettapproved! As times changed, and ADA legislation helped some places become more accessible for my uncles, I started thinking about what else posed a challenge for them. I started thinking about accessibility for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
My calling was confirmed in 2008 on the train. I was living in Chicago and working on my master’s degree, when I met a family with a son who had autism. I asked if they liked to visit the Shedd Aquarium, where I was working at the time. They said “no,” they don’t go to the aquarium. They don’t go anywhere because it was too difficult. Most of the time they stayed home, paralyzed by the fear of their son being overwhelmed and angered over the nasty glances they caught from people.
Now I know I am a fish nerd, but no one should miss out on an experience at an aquarium! That’s when I decided to create a set of tools to help this family, and similar ones, feel more comfortable, prepared and excited about at trip to the aquarium. The tools worked.
By creating a preparation video that foreshadowed a typical experience at the aquarium and a guide to assist nonverbal guests that provides structure during their visit in the form of a scavenger hunt, PAL Experience users enjoyed an awesome day at the aquarium!
I have since created five additional PAL toolkits to make facilities, ranging from sports arenas to horse ranches, more accessible for people with intellectual disabilities. My goal is to make Phoenix the most accessible city in the U.S. (followed by making the U.S. the most accessible place in the world, and the world the most accessible place in the galaxy).
With brettapproved and PAL Experiences, every individual and family will hopefully feel liberated to explore the world that’s waiting for them.
To learn more about PAL Experiences, please visit our website: palexperiences.com