There's an app for that...I think


I know very little about mobile apps and even less about APIs and data diagrams, but as I scoured Google for the latest in mobility happenings this morning, I came across an open forum about interactive mapping for people with disabilities. If programmed, these maps would shows the locations of VA hospitals, community centers, health care providers, wheelchair accessible stores, parks, restaurants and bus routes. To ensure the information is up-to-date, users would then be able to input information, like where sidewalks exist or end and whether a bathroom is ADA accessible.

The key words I took away from that were “if” and “would.”

Sensing an opportunity to break into the mobile app development market and earn a little extra cash on the side, I did some research and as it turns out, those maps already exist. There’s AXS Map, Wheelmap, Wheely, WheelMate and It’s Accessible, just to name a few. Each app allows users to find, rate and share accessible public spaces to some degree, but the one thing that struck me was how underutilized they were. 

Looking to cast a wide net, I did a quick search of accessible businesses in Brooklyn, N.Y. using the AXS Map app. Out of the 20 restaurants and businesses shown, only one had a review. I tested out several other major U.S. cities and got similar results.

Thanks to the ADA, businesses are required to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. However, as I looked the number of gray dots (businesses that hadn’t yet been rated), I realized it’s up to everyone to hold businesses—and people—accountable.

Granted, the results shown depend on the number people using the app, but if we don’t know something is broken, we can’t hope to fix it.