NEW YORK, July 16, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Hiki (pronounced “hee-KEY”), the first-ever dating and friendship app for the Autistic community, launches publicly today. The mobile app provides a safe space for people with Autism to embrace their uniqueness and celebrate their commonality. It is a place where being different is destigmatized, and where friendships, love, and a sense of community can flourish.
Hiki, meaning “able” in Hawaiian, was created by Founder Jamil Karriem after many heart-to-heart talks with his cousin with Autism, who confided in him that he was lonely and scared that he wouldn’t be able to find a special partner. Karriem noted that while most people have a countless number of social and dating apps at their disposal, none of these were designed with the consideration of helping people who are atypical find meaningful connections. Additionally, the physical spaces that are common for meeting friends and dates – i.e. bars and restaurants – often pose challenges for those who have sensory processing sensitivities.
Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the world; 70 million people are living with Autism and 1 in 59 children in the United States are born with it. Despite these numbers, the community has suffered from a lack of awareness, support, and infrastructure, particularly in regard to technology and social resources. Although the online dating market is expected to top $12 billion by 2020, there is not a single app created to address the needs of this massive population.
Karriem says, “There are a myriad of dating and social platforms for nearly every identifiable group, but nothing for the large, often overlooked Autistic community. I created Hiki because I believe that friendship, love, and community are the essence of happiness, and that everyone deserves access to platforms that can help build meaningful relationships.”
Every aspect of Hiki was developed and designed in partnership with people with Autism to ensure that the tool was representative of atypical needs. The design team included one neurotypical and one person with Autism, and Karriem holds weekly feedback sessions with his five-person advisory team that includes two people with Autism and three educators with over 30 years of experience working with the differently-abled.
A beta launch at the end of June was met with an overwhelmingly positive response from early Hiki users and the Autistic community. Karriem believes this enthusiasm will continue to grow as the app addresses the needs of a sizeable and underserved population, “Our mission is only beginning, and we look forward to effecting positive change and bringing happiness to millions of people around the world.”