As Novac/Ljubica Vuko writes, back in 2019, Stipo Margic won the first prize for the “Capallble” project at the StartIT @ PICS academy, organised by Split-Dalmatia County as part of the ICT County project. Back then, he was a student of information technology at the University Department of Professional Studies in Split, this summer he defended his final thesis in the field of Internet programming and today he is a professional information technology engineer.
His motto is that ”the world is without borders” and he tries to help other people with disabilities feel the same. Immediately after winning at the StartIT Academy, he and two other colleagues founded the Croatian Liberato Association in December 2019. They wanted to develop a digital map for the safer and easier movement of people with disabilities, to have all the information about accessibility they need and to feel much more safe. They wanted to create routes on the map in order to avoid obstacles and potential injuries, and increase their quality of life. They have succeeded in that, and they are still developing the project.
”I founded the Croatian Liberato Association with two colleagues from my faculty, Mija Matijevic and Ivan Ivancevic, who is no longer involved in the work of the association due to his own private obligations. Our first project is now known as the Liberato Map, an interactive map with information on the accessibility of locations for people with disabilities. With it, we wanted to increase the number of people with disabilities engaged in everyday activities, primarily young people in higher education. Currently, the association has 20 members, and in addition to my colleague Mija and me, final year sociology student Ivana Vladusic is also involved in the daily work of the association,” explained Stipo Margic, president of the Croatian Liberato Association.
He himself knows well what all people with disabilities face on a daily basis. He ended up in a wheelchair owing to a neurological disease and faced enough obstacles of his own. Very often, as noted on the Croatian Liberato Association’s website, narrow spaces restrict people with disabilities from accessing basic services and goods. Now, in just a few clicks on the screen, people can check if the space they’re looking for is accessible to them or not.
The interactive map has been available to the public since the beginning of 2020, first the locations in Split are included, and now it already has maps for three cities. Locations in Omis and Trogir are also included.
The director of the Croatian Liberato Association explained just how they get all the information, with whom they cooperate and whether they’re satisfied with the cooperation.
”For locations that are in city, county or state ownership, we first contact them, and for the rest we try to cooperate with local associations such as the Association of the Physically Handicapped TOMS from Trogir, the Agape Association from Omis, while in Split, we have cooperation with the County Association of the Blind, Info zone, the Association of Persons with Disabilities Split (UOSIS), and the Association ZNAKujmo svi,” stated Stipo.
Speaking about his personal experience and the obstacles he himself encountered, Stipo says that as a person and a student with a disability, his biggest problem, as is also probably the case with others, was bureaucracy, meaning tonnes of paper, and the general ignorance of people.
”As far as interaction is concerned, I personally think that people with disabilities should be louder and say what they need, where they are and what their shortcomings are, etc. because most people without disabilities don’t see that and can’t do anything until it is pointed out to them. I think that the problem will always be signs and and improper parking until people’s consciousness changes,” stated Stipo Margic.
When asked if other users of the Croatian Liberato Association’s innovative interactive map contact them, what their experiences are and what Liberato has made easier for them, Stipo says:
”We’re mostly contacted by foreigners or young parents, who point out that they no longer have to send e-mails, call or pray to find out some information about accessibility for themselves or their child(ren). The main question is related to a mobile app and whether there is a possibility to create it. We’re very much trying to make the mobile app see the light of day soon, all with the help of the University of Split and the cities where the application is used,” explained the president of Liberato.
Can Liberato grow into a startup? He answers this question by explaining that he doesn’t see LiberatoMap as a startup, but that some other projects of the Association could grow into startups.
”We give our full support and support to colleagues and members of the Association through the Student Entrepreneurship Incubator Kopilica (SPIK @) in the technical aspect while Mr. sc. Ivona Jukic and her colleagues take care of the economic support for students in the development of their ideas,” said Stipo.
In terms of his personal development and the development of the Croatian Liberato Association, in addition to winning the StartIT competition back in 2019, their participation in the Google Adwards and in the Student Entrepreneurship Incubator at the Faculty of Economics, the University of Split was significant.
They also participated in the Academy of Regional Development and EU Funds, which was initiated by the competent ministry. They are currently members of the incubators SPIK @ and SplitX Hub, accelerators for startups, and more recently – Digital Dalmatia.
The support of the University Department for Professional Studies is extremely important to the Croatian Liberato Association, which also provided them with space to work and the support of the Student Union and the Student Centre.
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