Navability technology for wheelchairs to transform Wollongong accessibility
Funding boost to create new generation of accessibility mapping.
The City of Wollongong is set to become more accessible for wheelchair users as a unique mapping project is rolled out over the coming months.
A $35,000 FundAbility grant from not-for-profit disability service provider, Northcott, will enable wheelchair users to create the next generation of accessibility mapping for Wollongong by showing how much effort is required to travel from one point to another.
The project aims to transform the accessibility of cities worldwide for wheelchair users, starting with Wollongong, through an extensive use of accessible mapping technology.
The Digital Living Lab—an Internet of Things network provided for the community by the University of Wollongong (UOW) SMART Infrastructure Facility—in partnership with Australian start-up business Briometrix, data will collected by a team of wheelchair users equipped with sensor technology.
This technology is the latest advance for a suite of initiatives using the Digital Living Lab, a network of Long Range Wide Area Network (LoRaWAN) gateways across Wollongong that allows users to harness the Internet of Things to enhance community development and wellbeing.
The technology was implemented at the University late last year, with UOW the first university campus in Australia to have dedicated directional mapping for wheelchair users. The pilot study produced maps that are colour-coded for effort – from Black (steep descent) to Purple (coasting), Green (easy level), Orange (incline) and Red (steep climb, may need assistance).
“This project combines internet mapping technology and physical activity monitoring devices for wheelchair users,” project leader Associate Professor Robert Gorkin explained.
“Where other accessibility maps rely on topographical data, these maps will 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.”
Data will be uploaded to the cloud through UOW’s Digital Living Lab and Internet of Things network, allowing for wider information sharing throughout the community.
Associate Professor Gorkin said the project takes into consideration the fact 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 that will later become available via Briometrix’s smartphone app for the wheelchair community, currently in the final stages of development.
The Wollongong map will build on the pilot study already completed to map the UOW campus, and mapping of event routes for the City of Sydney’s New Year’s Eve celebration.
Managing Director of Briometrix, Natalie Verdon, said she hopes the technology will inspire innovative ideas on how to create cities for all their inhabitants.
“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,” she said.
Northcott FundAbility Manager Aleen Hekimian said the organisation is excited to see the map expand into other regions and states.
“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,” she 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.”
The announcement comes just days before SMART director, Senior Professor Pascal Perez is set to join a panel of experts at Vivid Ideas in Sydney—part of Vivid Sydney 2018—to discuss ways in which our cities can be made more accessible for all.
The Vivid Festival panel discussion, entitled ‘How accessibility makes for a more liveable city’, will be held on Monday 28 May 2018 at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
ABOUT THE DIGITAL LIVING LAB
The Digital Living Lab is a smart city solution working to improve the quality of life for people in the community. It shares data from sensors throughout the region that address key social and environmental challenges, using Low-Power Wide-Area Network or other networks. See http://digitallivinglab.uow.edu.au/
ABOUT THE SMART INFRASTRUCTURE FACILITY
Established in 2011 by the University of Wollongong. SMART brings together experts from fields such as transport, water, energy, economics and modelling and simulation and provides a state-of-the-art facility to support this important research. An international leader in applied infrastructure research, SMART is helping to address the challenges of infrastructure planning and management both now and into the future.
ABOUT VIVID SYDNEY
Vivid Sydney is the world’s largest festival of light, music and ideas and now the largest event in Australia. For 23 days - from 25 May to 16 June 2018 – the event places a spotlight on Sydney and reinforces its position as the home of light, creativity, cutting edge music, engaging conversations and the exchange of new ideas. The festival is owned, managed and produced by Destination NSW, the NSW Government’s tourism and major events agency. In 2017 Vivid Sydney attracted a record 2.33 million attendees and injected over $143 million into NSW’s visitor economy. For more information visit www.vividsydney.com