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Background and Facts
Wheelmap is a map for wheelchair-accessible places. On www.wheelmap.org everyone from all over the world can find and add places and rate them by using a traffic light system. The map, which is available since 2010, shall help wheelchair users and people with mobility impairments to plan their day more effectively. Currently, more than 450,000 cafés, libraries, swimming pools, and many more public places have been captured. More than 300 new entries are added on a daily basis. A free Wheelmap app is also available for mobile devices, therefore the map can be easily used with smartphones.
Wheelmap is an initiative of the SOZIALHELDEN. They are a group of young committed people who have developed creative projects since 2004 in order to call attention to social problems and to remove them at best. More information on www.sozialhelden.de.
- www.wheelmap.org and the corresponding app went online in 2010
- Today more than 450,000 places have been marked, the majority as “fully wheelchair-accessible”
- Every day more than 300 new entries are added
- www.wheelmap.org works globally, but around a third of the places which have been added so far are located in Germany
- Wheelmap is available in 22 languages, among them Arabic, Danish, German, Greek, English, Spanish, French, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Swedish, Turkish, Korean, Polish and even in Klingon. Further languages will follow
- Wheelmap could be implemented thanks to numerous awards which the SOZIALHELDEN have received so far. These include, inter alia, the “German Citizen Award” in 2010 and the “German Commitment Award” in 2009. Wheelmap itself was awarded as “Selected Landmark in the Land of Ideas” in 2011
…about the topic
- In Germany, there are 1.6 million wheelchair users.
- Globally, there are 85 million – the dark figure is three times as high.
- 4.8 million people use a rollator in Germany. Taking the changing demographics into account, we expect that this number will continue to grow.
Wheelchairs or purpose-built cars on the one hand, elevators and ramps on the other allow people with mobility impairments to plan their day independently to a great extent. But: Frequently, the last meters decide whether the trip to the cinema, beer garden or supermarket was worth the effort. Just one single step at the entrance can be an insurmountable obstacle. And this is where Wheelmap comes into play: Users provide information for other users on how accessible a destination is. Thereby, the map contributes to an active and diversified lifestyle for wheelchair users. People with rollators or buggies benefit from this tool as well. Furthermore, the aim of Wheelmap is to make owners of wheelchair-inaccessible public places aware of the problem. They should be encouraged to reflect on and improve the accessibility of their premises.
Wheelmap wants to become well-known throughout Germany – and internationally as well. Gradually, more and more cities with as many tagged places as possible should be added. Moreover, the choice of available languages should be extended bit by bit.
How It Works
The map www.wheelmap.org is based on OpenStreetMap, an open, editable map of the digital open source map of the world. Everyone can search for places and – provided they have been tagged – get information about how easily accessible the places are. Those who sign up as a user are able to add and rate new places.
An easy traffic light system marks the wheelchair accessibility of a place: Green signifies an unrestricted access – e.g. because there are no steps or there is a ramp, an elevator or other tools which allow the entrance. Places which are orange-colored have no toilets for example. Places which are red-colored aren’t accessible for wheelchair users.
In general, the more people join Wheelmap and add places the more precise and informative the map gets.
Inclusion and language use
Inclusion means that every person is acknowledged in their individuality by society and is fully part of society. With a successful inclusion, the differences between impaired and not impaired people will still be noticed consciously. The differences will not be judged (negatively) though but rather limited in their meaning or even neutralized. The right to participation refers to all areas of life in which all places are accessible for everyone.
Here, the language use plays an important role. If you report on people with mobility impairments, the following overview shall help you to choose items in accordance with inclusion.
|Please avoid:||Please formulate it that way:|
|Person X who is captivated to a wheelchair…||Person X who sits in a wheelchair…|
|Person X suffers from XY…||Person X is XY-impaired…|
|Despite his/her impairment…||With his/her impairment…|
|The disabled person…||The person with impairment (“Person” written first)|
Questions to Raul Krauthausen about Wheelmap
How did you come up with the idea of www.wheelmap.org?
The idea developed from an actual everyday life situation: A friend complained about having to meet in the same café every time. We both didn’t know in which café it’d be possible for us to meet. One without a step at the entrance which you can’t overcome with a wheelchair. A classic example of how physical barriers restrict the lives of about 1.6 million wheelchair users in Germany. In this situation I thought that a map which shows the wheelchair accessibility of places in the surrounding area would be helpful. That was so to speak the mental hour of birth of www.wheelmap.org and the corresponding Wheelmap app. The actual implementation took place in summer 2010.
How exactly are places rated?
Some fundamental things are important when checking if a store or restaurant is wheelchair-accessible. First, you need to check: Is it possible for me as a wheelchair user to get into the place? Are there steps or a ramp? Then you need to check if each and every room including those with a WC are accessible. If that is the case, the place counts as fully wheelchair-accessible.
On site you can enter the result into the free Wheelmap app via your smartphone, or later on www.wheelmap.org. The place will be highlighted in green on the map visible for everyone. Places which are partly wheelchair-accessible are highlighted in orange and red highlights an inaccessible place for wheelchair users. Furthermore, you can enter your own comments. Normally, those are further details, e.g. “Access is possible using the terrace.”
It was important to us to make the use of the app and the entering of the data as easy as possible so less technically experienced people are able to participate as well.
How great is the use of Wheelmap?
The map is online since September 2010 and since November 2010 it is also available for mobile devices. The Wheelmap app for smartphones provides information on more than 400,000 gathered places. Wheelmap benefits from the high distribution rate of smartphones. Both so far existing information are used increasingly and more and more “unknown” place are tagged. Every day about 300 new marks are added. On the one hand, you can check quickly if the supermarket around the corner is wheelchair-accessible by using the Wheelmap app. On the other hand, you can insert easily if the new bookstore is accessible for wheelchair users.
Is the offer directed at wheelchair users only?
The target group is primarily wheelchair users indeed but also people with wheeled walkers and families with buggies are restricted by physical barriers in everyday life and benefit from www.wheelmap.org.
Naturally, all people – impaired as well as not impaired – make a real contribution to a more accessible society if they collect information for Wheelmap.
What are the future prospects of Wheelmap?
We want to become more popular throughout Germany – and also internationally – in order to provide wheelchair users with an active and diversified lifestyle. Gradually, more and more cities with as many tagged places as possible shall be added. Moreover, we want to extend our offer of available language bit by bit. Wheelmap already exists in English, French, Spanish, Italian, and you can even access Wheelmap in Icelandic, Korean, and Japanese.
Another important aspect will be the cooperation with local organisations and politics which run similar databases with accessible places.
The user structure of Wheelmap will very likely differentiate further in the future. There are already about 4.8 million people using wheeled walkers. We are assuming that this trend will increase continually conditioned by the demographic change. This means that more and more people will hopefully surmount fewer obstacles thanks to Wheelmap.
How does Wheelmap change life? Can you give a precise example?
As a citizen of Berlin I can find out where I can eat my Bavarian veal sausage during a stay in Munich without having to turn back in front of the door. Thanks to Wheelmap millions of people with mobility impairments have a guide for wheelchair-accessible places now. With Wheelmap it is easier to discover new places in everyday life and to meet other people, impaired or not. That is inclusion all through – entirely in accordance with Wheelmap.