Thursday, November 13, 2014

Contest seeks developers to create transit apps aimed at New Yorkers with disabilities

From NY1:

Like any New Yorker, Quemuel Arroyo knows the ins, the outs, the ups and the downs of mass transit. He rides the subway, after all.

"My MetroCard is the closest I'll get to a driver's license," Arroyo said.

As a rider with a disability, moving around requires more than a little effort to navigate an old system where fewer than one-quarter of the 468 stations are fully accessible.

"Every day, I have to map a route and cross-reference that route with the New York City Transit website to make sure that those elevators are hopefully working," Arroyo said.

So on Wednesday, he joined officials from the MTA, AT&T and Transit Wireless to announce App Quest 3.0, a contest that invites developers to mine the authority's data to create apps for commuters.

"This technology has the potential to revolutionize the way that people use our system, from tourists trying to find their way to people with disabilities to lifelong New Yorkers who want to be in the subway car closest to the exit they use every day," said MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast.

The contest offers $50,000 in prize money from AT&T, and for the first time, one of the prizes is a $10,000 payout for creating the best accessibility app for commuters with disabilities.

"Developers can come up with helpful ways for disabled communities to find the entrances and exits more easily, to understand where elevators are and where they're not, to understand when you get off a subway, which way to turn to find the nearest exit," said Marissa Shorenstein, president of AT&T New York.

Arroyo said having real-time information in a system where more stations are getting wireless reception would be a huge boon for the 850,000 New Yorkers with disabilities.

"The main challenge is elevators and escalators, knowing when they're out of service and knowing where they are," he said.

The challenge, in turn, for the tech-savvy set is to convert data about the subway system into easy-to-use apps that fit in your hand.

App developers have until February 3 at 5 p.m. to submit their apps for consideration in the contest. Winners are set to be announced in mid-March.