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Full Title 

Collective Awareness Platforms for Improving Accessibility in European Cities Regions

Started on 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


empirica Gesellschaft fur Kommunikations- undTechnologieforschung mbH
Embedded thumbnail for CAP4Access
Improving Accessibility of European Cities and Regions for people suffering from reduced mobility capabilities.

CAP4Access wants to make it easy for anyone with mobility impairments and/or requiring advanced accessibility, to access the places they need to get to in the city. We develop tools that will enable citizens, with the help of mobile devices and online maps, to collect and share information about the accessibility of places and locations and find solutions to erase accessibility barriers. 

Why is our project important? 

Currently in a number of European cities, many roads and buildings cannot be accessed by people with mobility impairments. This translates to millions of Europeans who do not have equal access rights. These people include wheelchair users and other persons with limited physical mobility, frail elderly and elderly with walkers, but also people requiring advanced accessibility of the built environment, e.g. parents with small children in strollers. 
We are working on improving the lives of these people by raising awareness of the barriers they encounter but also by showing ways how those barriers can be eliminated. We do this by creating online maps of accessibility to all citizens and opening them up so that people can contribute information about places in which they still come across barriers and to discuss possible solutions. CAP4Access is looking into ways in which new sources of data (data collected by the sensors in the smartphone, public administrators data about the built environment) can be used in making the city more accessible for everyone.

What are our goals? 

  • Improving the lives of people with mobility impairments and limited physical mobility
  • Raising awareness about inaccessible places in the built environment
  • Documenting and discussing problematic locations and routes within the built environment 
  • Showing possibilities for eliminating barriers in the problematic locations and routes
  • Empower people to help each other

Initiatives, tools and services we have already launched 

  • MyAccessible.EU is an online communication platform that has been set up by the CAP4Access project. Its aims is to get people of different generations, with various types of disabilities and from many countries to become involved in the project via this platform. From this platform, you can also easily find the Twitter account if you wish to follow. MyAccessible.EU is also a place to learn about or suggest awareness raising campaigns.
  • Wheelmap.org is an online map to search, find and mark wheelchair-accessible places worldwide. Due to the coloured tags you can see which place on the map is accessible (a green tag), limited accessible (a yellow tag), inaccessible for disabled persons (a red tag), or unknown (a grey tag). Wheelmap is available in 22 languages. You can also download the app on your smartphone (available for iPhone and Andoid, and from November 2015 also for Windows). A new feature on accessible toilets was added in summer 2015, in response to strong demand voiced by the user community users. 
  • OpenRouteService, a routing application for OpenStreetMap, has been equipped with a Wheelchair profile with enhanced functionality and European coverage. It utilises availale OSM data on the existence of sidewalks, dropped kerbs, type of surface, and elevations. Currently an accessibility analysis feature is being added that will allow comparing travel times between pedestrians and wheelchair users. This is expected to work well for awareness raising activities, e.g. towards promoting accessibility towards policy-makers, planners and the public at large. 
  • Wheelchair navigation app for mobile phones and other mobile devices. This app helps to find the best route for a person with limited mobility, and to guide users there. It is fed by OpenRouteService (see above) and integrates information from Wheelmap.org about accessibility of places. Work is ongoing on using landmarks (rather than distances) for providing instructions en-route. Download here!

Initiatives, tools and services we are still working on 

All of the tools mentioned above will be further developed until the end of the project (December 2016) in response to the results of piloting with target user communities, mainly in the four pilot cities Elche, Heidelberg, London and Vienna. In addition, the following tools are under development:

  • OSMatrix for visualizing data about accessibility, as well as Tool for visualizing the availability. Expected for early 2016.
  • Sentiment Mapper app for collecting data on emotional response to places. Expected for early 2016.
  • Obstacle Tagger for allowing users to raise “issues” with the OSM community for them to add obstacles into the OSM dataset. Available in prototype format, currently being further developed.
  • Quality Assurance Editor shows missing data in OpenStreetMap for surface, sidewalk, smoothness, incline. The app allows tagging attributes specific for wheelchair routing. Available in prototype format, currently being further developed.
  • Guidelines and toolset for integration of public data on dropped kerbs (i.e. segments of the sidewalk where the kerb has been lowered to help wheelchair users and powered mobility vehicles cross the road safely) into OSM. The procedure has been successfully tested with data from OGD Vienna, the open data portal of Austria’s capital city. 
  • Viz Dashboard is a convenient tool for assessing and displaying progress in accessibility related mapping on Wheelmap.org, and on OSM in general. The application generates maps and statistics about changes in the number of places tagged, e.g. resulting from a mapping party or other awareness raising activity.

Who will benefit from our project? 

  • Individuals with mobility impairments (e.g. persons in wheelchairs, frail elderly, persons with walkers) can use the site for becoming informed and also to report us about places with difficult access.
  • People requiring advanced accessibility (e.g. parents with small children in strollers) can have an overview of places they can easily access with strollers.
  • City planners and other public sector administrators can target their investments in improvement of accessibility.
  • Policy makers responsible for building environment in the European cities can be informed about accessibility in their city.
  • Grassroots initiatives, e.g. volunteers willing to enhance accessibility in their neighborhood can use the tools to map accessibility in their city.
  • Businesses who can compare their accessibility with that of their competitors and possibly decide to take action to improve the accessibility of their entire clientele
  • Residents who are willing to reorganize their environment in order to provide more accessible routes for persons with mobility impairments.

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