Yoocan: Empowering people with disabilities and their families

In the UK, 1 person out of 5 is disabled. However, this massive community didn’t have any platform to share their stories until Yoocan came into the picture.

Julia Migné

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Being able to read inspiring stories about people with disabilities is empowering other members of the community. © Cristiano Betta at Flickr

According to a report by the Papworth Trust , 11.9 million people in the UK are disabled – that’s equivalent to almost 1 in 5 people. If you add in the 166,000 people aged under 18 who are looking after a disabled parent or sibling, one can start seeing the magnitude and volume of people living in this condition.

Often though, people don’t really realise how numerous disabled people are until it touches close to home. “I always say it’s similar to when you are about to have a baby,” explains Moshe Gaon, CEO & Co-Founder of Yoocan. “You start seeing a lot of pregnant women in the streets whilst you never did before being pregnant.”

In July 2008, Moshe’s nephew Erez came to life with a rare disease that resulted in complex cognitive and physical disabilities. Suddenly, everything changed. The family had to navigate around acknowledging the use of special products and special services as a part of their lives.

Seeing his brother struggling to find information and services to help his son, Moshe started to realise that despite the progress in technology, the issue of disabilities was still overlooked by governments and corporations. The products and services were certainly out there but these were extremely difficult to find.

With a background in the high tech industry in Israel, Moshe started thinking of creating a venue for people to share empowering stories that revolve around disabilities. “It would be a place where they would also empower others by telling them how they’d overcome an experience or how they’ve changed their lives despite their disabilities,” he explains.

The stories on Yoocan are classified in different categories of activities. © Yoocan

The idea was to do this through optimism, positive affirmation, and activities that tell people with disabilities: ‘Hey! You can swim, you can play guitar, you can do everything you want!’ and that’s how the name Yoocan came to life.

On July 2016, the team behind Yoocan decided to start the platform on Instagram by asking people to share their stories. Their Instagram page quickly boomed with people sending stories from all over the world. One year later, the page now totals 21.2K followers.

“By November, we had hundreds of stories from 80 countries,” exclaims Moshe. He decided to go further by connecting the growing Yoocan community with service providers and organisations so that if people were looking for a product or service they could find it easily. From this marriage of ideas, another platform was born: Alto.

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Designed as an extension of the global Yoocan website, Alto is currently focussed on the US market but Moshe adds that if there is a product on Alto that a consumer wants to acquire, the platform can ship it worldwide.

With more than one thousand stories and a community of people living in over a hundred different countries, Yoocan has really grown to be a world brand. However, Moshe emphasises that it wasn’t created to be a philanthropy, but rather, a self-sustaining model that can last without depending on others. “This will be something that stands by its own and will make revenue from people using it,” he says.

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“Our objective is really to show how a product can be an impact investment product. Investors invest in Yoocan because they believe that it is not just a philanthropy but also a business that is good for people.”

The Papworth Trust actually emphasises that 1 in 4 disabled people say “that they frequently do not have choice and control over they daily lives” and that they are also less likely to participate in sport.

And that’s why Yoocan has been deemed precious because it provides a platform to share and inspire people with disabilities and as well as their families. “We are helping people,” explains Moshe. “We are increasing their quality of life and we’re creating a space for people with disabilities, which make up 20% of the world population. And if you add to that their friends and families, this is probably like a third of the world that’s touching on disabilities and that we are catering for.” 

When people are sharing their stories and pouring their hearts out, they want to know that they are in a safe environment, they want to feel that they are sharing their stories with people who really care about what they are doing. People needed to feel that Yoocan was a safe place where nobody would send them cruel feedback or messages and that’s why the community was able to grow their reach organically. Yoocan is now also on Facebook and on YouTube since last month.

It’s also the result of the understanding that if you want to improve your life and if you really want to find a solution, there are people out there that have that solution. If you don’t share and if you don’t ask you will never know.

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Yoocan’s key objectives: Connecting people, empowering them and helping their community to find activities and products adapted to their needs. ©Yoocan

Another key aspect of Yoocan’s success is its uniqueness. No such platform existed for people with disabilities before and with the boom of social media, people are becoming more and more comfortable talking about their disabilities. The Israeli entrepreneur explains: “It’s also the result of the understanding that if you want to improve your life and if you really want to find a solution, there are people out there that have that solution. If you don’t share and if you don’t ask you will never know.”

But this vibrant community is going beyond sharing stories and giving each other feedback. Yoocan is also about making friends and actually reaching out outside the platform. “I think what we’re there to solve is two problems: the frustration of search and the loneliness of people, not just for the persons with disabilities, but for their families too,” says Moshe.

“We are providing a platform that caters to helping people improve on their loneliness and on their frustration, and it empowers them to help others because they have succeeded at doing something amazing with their lives and it’s worthwhile for them to share it with somebody else.”

In order to keep growing and changing the world, the team behind Yoocan is looking for partnerships with companies that have a vision similar to theirs, which highlights cooperation instead of competition. “The competition has been there for too long! If we cooperate we can create a much more powerful service for the community and we can change the world.”

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