So here’s a question. What’s the quickest way from Wollongong railway station to WIN stadium if you want to go and watch the footy?
And does that way include steps or steep inclines? Because if it does, that may make it impossible for you – because you’re in a wheelchair.
The city of Wollongong is about to become a much more welcoming place for wheelchair users with the creation of a map created by a small team of six volunteer wheelchair users.
Jason Jones, Ashley James, Mark Tomkins will travel the streets of Wollongong for four days this week (August 24 to August 27) equipped with sensors to gather information for an Accessibility map of the area.
The project follows a pilot study that has mapped the University of Wollongong campus and is a partnership between the university’s SMART Infrastructure Facility, Wollongong City Council and Briometrix.
The pilot project is funded with a $35,000 grant from FundAbility from Northcott, a not-for-profit disability service provider.
Natalie Verdon, co-founder of Briometrix, said map would focus on three areas of the CBD – the areas around the hospital and the train station; the Blue Mile around Belmore Basin and Puckey’s Estate; and central shopping area.
The project will also focus on the Wollongong Heritage Trail that celebrates more than 20 historic sites in the eastern part of the city from Church St to Harbour St.
“We are trying to look at the major transport areas, the entertainment areas and the tourist areas,” she said.
“This will help us understand which routes are most travelled by people in wheelchairs, and it will help wheelchair users choose the best route, depending on their fitness.”
Briometrix is working with councils in Sydney and Shepparton, Victoria, to make similar maps.
Project leader, Associate Professor Robert Gorkin, said the project was an excellent example of how the community is enhanced by emerging technology like the Internet of Things.
“The wheelchair pilots will be essentially working like Google cars,” he said.
“If you look at a Google map, there’s a car that goes around with cameras to collect data.
“Where other accessibility maps rely on topographical data, Briometrix technology evaluates the routes metre by metre, considering gradients, surface, camber, barriers and the effort required by wheelchair users – everything that affects the difficulty of a route for a wheelchair user.”
This project is part of a portfolio of initiatives supported by the SMART Digital Living Lab that promotes community-driven use of smart technologies. Dr Maryam Gharamani, from SMART’s Digital Living Lab, will work with Prof Robert Gorkin to help deliver the crowd-sourced accessibility maps to the community. In the next few months, the maps will be made available for free online through the UOW supported dashboard Vision Illawarra.
Briometrix will also integrate the maps into their expanding maps across Australia through their Navability app.
The project will also demonstrate how the wheelchair user community can not only develop technology-enabled solutions for themselves but also deliver broader public benefits: a chair will be equipped with a LoRaWAN tracker that will provide precious information about the quality of the LoRaWAN transmission across the city.