Travel & Holidays

Wheelmap: making accessible information global

Following on from our article, Accessibility Apps, Disability Horizons speaks to Raul Krauthausen about Wheelmap, an online map where users can share information about the wheelchair accessibility of public locations worldwide.

My name is Raul and I am the founder of Wheelmap. The idea of the website was born in Summer 2010 when a friend and I wanted to meet for a coffee. As a wheelchair user, when deciding on a café or restaurant, accessibility is a far greater concern than the quality of the coffee!

There are hundreds of websites which provide information on opening hours, prices and service, but only very few that actually provide correct information about accessibility. In Britain, DisabledGo or Inclusive Britain provide this service, but both are restricted to the UK.

So as a result of our ‘caffeine brainstorm’, we came up with Wheelmap – a service that works internationally to offer accessibility information from people who have actually experienced it. I am thrilled to see that, in only two years, people from all over the world have added details for more than 250,000 places.

Wheelmap - accessible travelSo, to explain Wheelmap a little further; the website is based on OpenStreetMap (free Wiki world map), which includes a few million existing points of interest such as restaurants, accommodation, shops, public transport and many more. Users can use this data (which is originally grey) and apply our ‘traffic-light-system’ to it; locations are either fully accessible (green), partially accessible (yellow) or not accessible at all (red). If you want to go one step further and add a new point of interest, you just need to register.

I personally think that with the concept of having real people add information to the site, along with our simple traffic light system, Wheelmap has the potential to reach an even greater audience than it does now, and will really help people with mobility impairments to travel freely across the world.

We are also available as an app, which enables you to get information of the services you want to use en route. All you need to do is register on our site. From then on you are part of our crowd-sourcing community.

Originally starting in Germany (where I am from), the great success there has been encouraged us to make our service well known abroad. Wheelmap comes in sixteen languages already, and we hope to expand this even further. We know that Wheelmap is extremely useful for mobility impaired people and we strongly believe that more people around the world would benefit from this online tool. Unfortunately, many potential users have not yet heard of its existence. We want to change that and turn the world into a colourfully tagged place!

Our road abroad has started in London, and we believe that the Oylmpic and Paralympic Games create the ideal environment to address the needs of those with mobility impairments wanting to live life to the full.

But we are still new, so please let us know your thoughts and ideas! We have a few ideas for helping the map to grow, such as a ‘Mapping Party’ to discover with friends what an area is like and then let others know. It’s fun and it serves a higher purpose.

I’d love to see this project flourish globally. But even more, I hope that in the future our world will be equally accessible for everyone.

Visit Wheelmap to sign up, start tagging and give your feedback.

By Raul Krauthausen

Check out…

• Accessibility apps: what do you think?
• Hailo-ing a cab: the app for cabs in London.
• 5 top tips for using accessible travel in London.

If you have seen an accessible app or website you think everyone should know about, get in touch by emailing us at editor@disabilityhorizons.com, tweeting us at @DHorizons or messaging us on Facebook.

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