App helps disabled people make friends

Posted at 12:28 AM, Jul 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-06 00:28:20-04

GRANADA HILLS, CA (KCAL/KCBS/CNN) - Two years ago, a man had an idea to help his young neighbor, and +created a free app called Friendi to help connect people with special needs.

It's not always easy making friends and it can be especially difficult for people with disabilities.

Now this new app can make a difference in someone's life.

A young neighbor inspired the California man to come up with the idea.

"The core function is friend-finding based on distance from each other, matching interests and age," app creator Ben Raskin said.

He said it's like an ice breaker, and the parents are in control to message one another and even explore resources that are available.

Raskin lives next door to his friend Jared, but as he was heading to college and then beginning a career as a school counselor, he was reminded of how hard friendships were and still are for Jared who has autism.

He remembered a Halloween party for Jared, and no one else came.

"There was way more food than we would ever be able to eat and there was a bit of disappointment," Raskin said.

The disappointment is still there, years later.

Colleen Selfridge, Jared's mother, worked hard to get her son to talk, read and socialize, but she can't make friends for the 22-year-old.

"I just wanted to put a great big banner over my house and say "needed: friends," Selfridge said.

Raskin wants everyone to have a friend.

"I'm a strong believer that you can really equate someone's emotional and mental health to the quality of their relationship," Raskin said.

The Friendi app is in beta now. It's specifically marketed to parents and guardians of people with autism, Asperger's or Down syndrome.

Copyright 2017 KCAL, KCBS via CNN. All rights reserved.