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A local organization is bridging the communication gap between businesses and people with disabilities.

JJ’s List works kind of like Yelp and it’s recently gaining traction.

From their small office in Evanston, JJ’s List is managing a growing community of thousands across the country.

Sarah Armour is part of the team that manages the website. She says it’s changing the way people think about diversity, specifically people with disabilities.

“I think it’s about seeing us as people and not as our disability and with our labels,” she says. “There’s a real authenticness to JJ’s List.”

Perhaps that authenticity comes from how the list got started in the first place.

J.J. Hanley’s son Tim was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder when he was 3-years-old

“I was terrified about his future,” Hanley says. “I was afraid that he might never have a friend. I was afraid that he would be isolated for the rest of his life.”

So Hanley wanted to create something to help people understand her son.

“In the very beginning I wanted to give a voice to people touched by disability,” she says.

She started with connecting to the business community, creating a forum where people can speak directly to managers.

The power is in a Yelp-like public forum to hold restaurants and other businesses accountable. Restaurants, stores and other businesses around the country are reviewed.

Businesses can proactively sign up to see how they stack up.

Positive changes are noted online and there’s a sticker of approval for some of the best businesses in the area.

J.J’s List has gone from educating online to in-person. They have started a disability awareness training program in which team now goes into schools, businesses and organizations.

J.J.’s List has just been awarded a grant to take their disability awareness training to 10 chicago area public schools or cultural organizations at no cost to the school or organization.

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