Photo: Martin Cathrae/Flickr
Seattle is one hilly city, with unpredictable curbs and near constant construction. As a result, in early October of 2015, Disability Rights Washington, an advocacy group for people with disabilities, filed a class action suit against Seattle for failing to meet federal and state requirements for safe and accessible curb ramps.
While Seattle gets its act together, The Taskar Center for Accessible Technology team at the University of Washington has designed a free trip planner for pedestrians to determine the safest and most convenient routes in advance. The tool, Access Map, takes into account the steepness of the hills and whether sidewalks have curb-ramps to make them wheelchair-accessible.
Why not just use Google Maps, you ask? Google Maps may have a pedestrian function, but it doesn’t include the detailed, pedestrian-relevant information that Access Map has harnessed.
According to the Seattle Times, all of the information that Access Map uses is already available on the internet. The developers took a variety of data sets from The Seattle Department of Transportation, Mapbox, the National Elevation data set and the DSSG sidewalks team and merged them into one, usable format.
As Anat Caspi, the director of the project, told the Seattle Times, “We haven’t truly done pedestrian-centered mapping. Everyone wants to go green and make cities walkable, but we experience these information gaps when we go out and use our phones to navigate by foot.”
Access Map is also a great tool for people with grocery carts, strollers, heavy bags, kids on bikes and anyone else looking for a way to avoid Seattle’s steepest inclines. Caspi’s own 5-year old daughter uses a wheelchair. With Access Map, Caspi can now find the smoothest routes for traveling Seattle streets with her family.
AccessMap is largely a volunteer effort. If you would like to support Access Map, you can donate here. Donations will go towards funding the development of AccessMap as well as incidental costs.