Funding announced today by the University of Wollongong (UOW) is set to transform the accessibility of cities worldwide for wheelchair users with the most extensive use of accessible mapping technology to date.

The $35,000 grant from FundAbility from Northcott, a not-for-profit disability service provider, will enable wheelchair users to create the new generation of accessibility mapping for Wollongong by showing how much effort is required to travel from any one point to another.

The Wollongong map will be created in partnership with the Australian start up, Briometrix. Their mapping technology is used by a paid team of wheelchair users equipped with sensor technology. This technology will then send data to the cloud via the Digital Living Lab, an Internet of Things network provided to the community, free by the SMART Infrastructure Facility at UOW.

“This combines  Google Maps and Fitbits for wheelchair users,” said project leader Associate Professor Robert Gorkin.

“Where other accessibility maps rely on topographical data, Briometrix maps evaluate 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.

“We have to remember that wheelchair users are not a homogenous group. You’ve got children through to adults, people beginning with rehab journeys through to professional athletes and a variety of different capabilities and care needs to consider. Regardless, they are the critical community which can truly evaluate accessibility, this insight gives all stakeholders, whether an advocacy group to council, an opportunity to create accessibility solutions for all.”

The four-month project will create an online interactive map for that will later become available via Briometrix’s smartphone app for the wheelchair community, currently in the final stages of development. The announcement comes just days before SMART director, Senior Professor Pascal Perez will join a panel of experts as part of Vivid Ideas in Sydney, discussing ways in which our cities can be made more accessible for all.

Natalie Verdon, Managing Director, Briometrix, says she hopes the technology her company is pioneering will inspire innovative ideas on how to create cities for all their inhabitants.

“What we are about to create in Wollongong will be a blueprint for what we will roll out in other cities worldwide,” she said.  The Wollongong map will build on the pilot study already completed to map the UOW campus, and mapping of event routes with for the City of Sydney NYE celebration.

“The project will give any wheelchair user the ability to apply local knowledge and enable the community to suggest ways in which accessibility and connectivity can be improved.”

“FundAbility actively encourages strategies that build the capacity of mainstream and community services so that they can be accessible by supporting and enabling participation and inclusion. Aleen Hekimian, FundAbility Manager at Northcott said.

“FundAbility is excited to see an accessible map that empowers wheelchair users, also allowing them to co-create the maps. This allows for the city to become accessible, creating inclusion, which we are hoping to see expand into further regions or states and hopefully, one day, nation wide.”

This week’s announcement is the latest advance for a suite of initiatives using the Digital Living Lab, a network of LoRaWAN gateways across Wollongong that allows users harness the Internet of Things to enhance community development and well being.

This latest project from the Digital Living Lab comes just a week after a successful trial of what is thought to be a world-first trial for the first real-time personal shark alert system, SharkEye.

 

The revolution in city accessibility is coming to the main stage. You can catch the panel, How accessibility makes for a more liveable city’, on 28 May at the Museum of Contemporary Art as part of the Vivid Ideas program for Vivid Sydney 2018.