Hiki (pronounced “hee-KEY”), is the first-ever dating and friendship app for people with Autism. The mobile app provides a safe space for people with Autism to celebrate their uniqueness and embrace who they are. It is a place where being different is destigmatised, and where friendships, love, and a sense of community can flourish. Founder Jamil Karriem tells all.
Hiki, meaning ‘able’ in Hawaiian, was created after many heart-to-heart talks with my cousin, who has Autism. He confided in me that he was lonely and scared that he wouldn’t be able to find a special partner.
It made me realise that while most people have a countless number of social and dating apps at their disposal, none of these is designed to help people who are atypical find meaningful connections.
Additionally, the physical spaces that are common for meeting friends and dates, i.e. bars and restaurants, often pose challenges for those who have sensory processing sensitivities.
Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the world – 70 million people are living with Autism. In the United States 1 in 59 children are born with it and there are around 700,000 people on the autistic spectrum in the UK.
Despite these numbers, the community has suffered from a lack of awareness, support, and infrastructure, particularly in regard to technology and social resources. Although the online dating market is expected to top $12 or £10 billion by 2020, there isn’t a single app created to address the needs of this massive population.
There is a myriad of dating and social platforms for nearly every identifiable group, but nothing for the large, often overlooked Autistic community. I created Hiki because I believe that friendship, love, and community are the essence of happiness, and that everyone deserves access to platforms that can help build meaningful relationships.
Every aspect of Hiki was developed and designed in partnership with people with Autism to ensure that the tool is representative of atypical needs. The design team included one neurotypical person and one with Autism.
To ensure the app remains truly useful, I also hold weekly feedback sessions with my five-person advisory team. This includes two people with Autism and three educators with more than 30 years of experience working with differently-abled people.
A beta launch at the end of June 2019 was met with an overwhelmingly positive response from early Hiki users and the Autistic community. I believe this enthusiasm will continue to grow as the app addresses the needs of a sizeable and underserved population.
Our mission is only beginning, and we look forward to effecting positive change and bringing happiness to millions of people around the world.
Hiki is available on iOS and Android. To find out more and download the app, visit the Hiki disabled dating app website.
By Jamil Karriem
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