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UF student creates restaurant-finding website, encouraging inclusion

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Published: Nov. 24, 2020 at 4:08 PM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Several apps and websites can help you find information on restaurants near you but one UF student says his website stands out.

UF senior Blake Anderson is encouraging inclusion through technology. What started as a school summer project has turned into a passion project for Anderson. He’s created @local, a website that categorizes local restaurants based on features they have like outdoor seating, being pet-friendly and if they’re open on holidays. The website is constantly updated by Anderson himself so that users can visit local spots without any stress beforehand.

“I’m glad that I have a way, even if it’s this simple, to make a difference,” he said.

He noticed that finding updated information on restaurants during the pandemic was increasingly difficult.

“I became a lot more focused on the consumer side of things and focusing on the main problem, which was a lack of efficient communication between businesses and consumers … many people had to rely on things like social media to figure out what businesses were doing.”

Majoring in computer science, Anderson says the technology part of the startup was easy. The business side of things he’s getting the hang of, but the impact of the tool is what makes the project so special.

“My mom is hearing impaired,” he said, “so when my family goes out to dinner, we have to consider ‘is the restaurant quiet? Does it have outdoor seating?’”

Even the format of the website itself is built to be inclusive.

“Small things like the color contrast or if someone can actually interact with the website if they’re using a screen reader because they’re blind ... those are very small things from the perspective of other people ... but to them, it’s a world of a difference.”

As far as plans for the future, Anderson hopes to soon partner with local businesses to help build the website’s database and functions. For now, he’s taking it one day at a time.

“So I called 32 restaurants to see if they’re open on Thanksgiving or not … because the current information available online is “we don’t know ... call the restaurant” ... so I called 32 restaurants, so everybody else doesn’t have to.”

Perhaps expanding his one-man team is in the future as well.

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