Mapp4All, Developing an Atlas of Accessibility Features Around the World

April 2018 – It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention. Mr. Josep Esteba, an entrepreneur, would likely agree with this sentiment. The challenges of navigating his native Spain in his wheelchair inspired him to create Mapp4All, a smartphone app that has a function for people with a variety of disabilities to share the accessibility features of buildings and cities they visit. Anticipating that an app is only as reliable as the data it is built upon as well as its timeliness, Mapp4All allows users to add their observations, such as which buildings offer wheelchair accessible ramps or elevators. Individual buildings and businesses are also able to use the app to log their accessibility features. As the app updates in real-time, users can be informed of building construction or route changes (e.g., obstructions) that have made formerly accessible areas temporarily or permanently inaccessible, and vice versa. 
Speaking of his experiences traveling around Spain and the world, Mr. Esteba shared, “When it’s somewhere they don’t know [wheelchair users], they’re not sure there will be the drop curbs they need ... they’re not sure they’re going to be able to get off the bus. You only need a couple of experiences of going somewhere and getting stuck to lose your independent mobility.” The challenge to increase urban accessibility is a great one, but one that technology can offer potential solutions. According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, an estimated 6.25 billion people are expected to live in urban areas around the world, of which 15% (937,500,000) are expected to have a disability. Further, according to the United Nations Development Programme, an estimated 80% of people with disabilities live in developing settings. The need for better information about accessibility is paramount, as Catherine Holloway, a lecturer in assistive technology and accessibility at University College London said, “In the developing world, it really helps if there is already legislation in place to make infrastructure accessible – before it is built – so it doesn’t have to be retrofitted after construction, which is much more expensive.” Apps such as Mapps4All can help legislators better understand what areas need to be made more accessible, or what features citizens have said they would like incorporated into other buildings and city projects. 
Mr. Esteba’s work has already been used to inform other efforts, such as Delhi’s Street Rehab program which aims to make the bustling city more accessible. By providing citizens and policy-makers with more up-to-date data on the accessibility of their cities, technology solutions such as Mapps4All can help ensure that cities made and planned to be more accessible. Source: The National. 


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