Smartphone app helps people with a disability access the city
February 15, 2012
How do you figure out how to pilot a wheelchair around your city? Around 10 percent or more of the population live with a disability, so chances are that you, or someone you know, has this problem. You can't be certain if wheelchair access is available unless you laboriously phone ahead to inquire for every route and every destination. Some web information is available, but knowing where to find it and what search strings to use can be a real challenge. Enter the Ldn Access smartphone app, that helps people with disabilities easily find where there are step-free access ramps, usable toilet facilities, and other services for the disabled.
Ldn Access is one of a number of apps of this type, although it is also perhaps the most advanced. It is the brainchild of David Biddle, a disabled survivor of the 7/7 London terrorist attacks. He lost both his legs, his left eye, and his spleen in the bombings. When he became a wheelchair-user, he discovered that the information around his city of London can be quite unreliable. "I can think of numerous instances where I've stopped somewhere to use the toilet or gone to a restaurant only to find it is impossible," he told BBC recently. "There is such a lack of useful information for people in a wheelchair, those with learning difficulties or people with a visual or hearing impairment."
Daniel teamed up with his friend Tobi Collett and they created the Ldn Access app. An icon-based guide to London, it provides the disabled with information on such things as how accessible the parking is and whether there are stairs, and if there are toilets at particular locations.
The main menu allows you to choose from Attractions, Hotels, Places to Eat, Entertainment, and Transport. There is also a special section dedicated to the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. After selecting from the main menu, your options are broken down into smaller categories. For example, clicking on Attractions lets you choose from Music Venues, Casinos, Museum and Art Galleries, or Historic Places. A further click on one of these options will then give you a list of places such as Wembley Stadium or Buckingham Palace, depending on what you're looking for. The app is also location-based, and can therefore determine where you are in relation to any of the venues you wish to visit. However, no wi-fi signal is required to access the information in the program.
Along with general information on accessible parking and toilets, the app also lists specifics such as accessible baby changing facilities, hearing/induction loops, and whether assistance dogs are permitted. While other apps are available that can tell you many of these things, Ldn Access is not restricted to performing just the one function.
Venues listed are based on accessibility and location, with the information provided taken from their websites or via a telephone audit. Biddle and Collett also visited random locations listed in the app to ensure that all data provided to them was indeed accurate.
Presently the app is only available for Apple devices, and only for London. The inventors hope to develop Android, Blackberry and Windows phone versions as well as extensions to other UK cities.
This is the sort of worthy-cause app that is likely to attract funding by governments and attract the attention of community service organizations. With financial support forthcoming from those sources, it is not hard to see this type of app becoming widely available, and for an increasing number of cities in various countries throughout the world.
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