In Yes! Magazine, Megan Wildhood features one of the most useful apps I’ve ever seen:
For the nearly 50,000 Seattle residents who live with disabilities and are younger than 65, not to mention the roughly 90,000 who are older than 65 and are more likely to face mobility challenges, getting around the city is a constant challenge with few easy remedies.
Seattle, as its residents know, has a high proportion of steep streets. So the folks at Hack the Commute built AccessMap Seattle, an app to enable wheelchair users and other mobility-impaired folks to find out where they can (and can’t) navigate:
On the app, which is free, users can find streets color-coded for steepness (green for flat, yellow for moderate, and red for steep), and the locations of curb cuts, bus stops, and elevators, as well as construction sites, which tend to sprawl and block crosswalks and sidewalks. When discerning steepness, users can select from predetermined settings for “wheelchair,” “powered,” “cane” or “custom,” which allows users to set the maximum uphill and downhill steepness for their needs.
Wildhood’s excellent article features both the importance of the app and the difficulties in creating it (not to mention making a template for other cities):
The AccessMap team has found data from the Seattle Department of Transportation to be inaccurate or incomplete, particularly regarding curb ramp locations. That’s largely because of funding: City and county taxes still tend to benefit drivers and freeways, not pedestrians or mass transit, and budget cuts often limit municipal governments to large-scale planning and infrastructure projects, like for bridges and freeway on-ramps. Plus, when legislation is proposed to redirect spending, drivers can put up a fight.
If Seattle can do it, other cities can do it. And what a great project for some of the Summer of Code projects, prisoner coding projects, and other efforts to bring marginalized folks into coding — even better if they can also help marginalized folks by the coding they do.