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New app helps people with mobility issues navigate Seattle

Screenshot from Access Map - Seattle.
Screenshot from Access Map – Seattle.

The winner of Seattle’s first Hack the Commute is an app aimed at providing people with mobility issues information about steep hills, curb cuts and sidewalk closures so they can find a more accessible route.

But Access Map – Seattle is helpful far beyond people who need curb ramps to get around. The easy-to-read steepness guide is pretty useful for people on bikes, too. And marking the locations of public elevators is pretty cool, too.

Congratulations to the team: Allie Deford, Nick Bolten, Reagan Middlebrook and Veronika Sipeeva. You can read more about the event and the prizes in this GeekWire post:

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Hackcessible’s team members — Allie Deford, Nick Bolten, Reagan Middlebrook, and Veronika Sipeeva — came together last month at the initial Hack the Commute event after learning about problems faced by people with mobility challenges. Dr. Alan Borning and Dr. Anat Caspi of the Taskar Center for Accessible Technology at the University of Washington, one of many community members that participated at the event, helped the team understand what dilemmas people were facing.

“They started telling us about accessibility issues in Seattle and we settled on this idea of helping people with limited mobility get around the sidewalks,” Bolten said. “We were quickly hooked on the idea of contributing to the accessibility of the city. It presented such a huge opportunity to make a tangible improvement in the lives of members of an under-served community.”

Access Map could also help highlight how much work the city still needs to do to get our streets and sidewalks up to accessibility standards. Unfortunately, it seems like the curb cut data is not complete (many intersections without dots actually do have curb cuts). But if this data set is expanded and completed, it would be an awesome way to visualize where the city needs to focus accessibility efforts.

Another awesome feature would be to mark quality crosswalks, like ones with traffic signals and curb cuts or ones that are otherwise enhanced with accessibility in mind (flashing beacons, raised crosswalks, refuge islands, etc). Or maybe it would be better to just mark all the crossings that are not at all accessible so people can know to avoid them.

The app is still in beta, and you can help the team build it out, according the the Access Map website:

We are looking for people to help us in our efforts. Right now, there are two ways you can help. If you have limited mobility, we would love to get some feedback from you about our application! Please fill out this short survey, and we will get back to you as soon as possible to hear your thoughts. If you are a developer who is interested in helping us out, please check out our GitHub repository or email us at [email protected] to find out how you can get involved. Right now, we are really looking for someone with map and routing experience, but don’t let the lack of those skills stop you from helping.

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