Every day, Jason DaSilva (pictured) experiences firsthand the challenges of traveling around New York City on his motorized scooter. But the Brooklyn-based filmmaker with multiple sclerosis is not sitting back. Instead, DaSilva is leading an initiative called AXS Map to chart big cities with better accessibility information.
For people living with physical disabilities, the project is sort of like a more robust Yelp. Resources like Yelp feature detailed information about restaurants, bars and shopping destinations, but DaSilva found they lacked any information about accessibility. Currently, Yelp only indicates whether a place is wheelchair-accessible with a "yes" or "no" indication.
Using the Google Maps and Google Places APIs, DaSilva helped create the AXS Map platform, which features accessibility information for places to go out to in a city. On the AXS Map desktop or mobile site, click on a place to view accessibility ratings for a local business' entries and bathrooms on a five-star rating system. The concept is based on crowdsourcing by users, so according to DaSilva, the map is not where it needs to be — yet. Like Foursquare, the more users leave ratings and comments about accessibility, the more useful this platform can be.
DaSilva, who was diagnosed with a form of multiple sclerosis in 2006, said the project grew out of his own frustrations with moving around New York. He found that other people with disabilities might have the same problems.
"It was very frustrating, you know, I was finding that the freedoms that I had — just simple things like meeting up with friends and things, it was becoming more and more difficult. So that's why I came up with this idea," DaSilva told Mashable.
This week, volunteers from Acorda Therapeutics worked with Google to scour the streets of New York City for three to four hours a day, adding new accessibility information for AXS Map users. This three-day mapping event ended on Thursday.
"It's exciting just to be out there and watch people map," DaSilva said. "At the end of the day, this project is really about ... opening the eyes of people just to see ... the struggle that we go through."
"As a part of GoogleServe, our annual global celebration of service, our New York Googlers are excited to work with AXS Map to help make New York City more accessible," GoogleServe participant Ashley Gushue said in a statement.
Last year, AXS Map held a similar mapping event in San Francisco. So at the moment, most of the accessibility information is only available for New York and San Francisco. However, since the system is powered by Google, anyone can add information for locations visible on Google.
Monday, June 17, 2013
Posted by BA Haller at 9:34 PM