The University College London (UCL), in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, is in the process of developing wheelchair-accessible maps of Delhi with the help of low-cost sensors.
Under the project called ‘Street Rehab’, maps are being created to “gain a clear understanding of user needs, available technology and the accessibility of the city”.
“Infrastructure in India can often make pushing a wheelchair or tricycle difficult. We’re identifying how people are currently getting around in Delhi, to find new ways of facilitating rehabilitation and identifying ways to improve infrastructure,” said Catherine Holloway, Academic Director of the Global Disability Innovation (GDI) Hub.
“For the first stage of the ‘Street Rehab’ project, the researchers teamed up with local NGOs to find wheelchair and tricycle users from across the socio-economic spectrum, who were the study participants and also advised on the development of the project,” UCL said in a statement.
Under The project, maps are being designed using low-cost sensors that can “identify features of the sidewalk and gauge how wheelchair- or tricycle-users propel themselves”. The sensors are linked to users’ mobile phones and enables them to access the sensor data through an app. They can also add geo-tagged photos or voice notes to annotate their journey.
“The project is associated with a £10 million GDI Hub-project funded by the UK’s Department for International Development, called AT2030, which aims to bring life-changing assistive technology, such as wheelchairs and eyeglasses, to all,” it added.
PVM Rao of IIT-Delhi, who is assisting with the project, said the “development of assistive technologies for empowerment of people with disabilities is extremely important”.
“To achieve social and economic inclusion through research and innovation, UCL and IIT-Delhi will have joint activities in design, development and dissemination of assistive technology, which sits between economic burden and economic prosperity,” he said.
As of now, the team has been able to create a draft map of accessibility using anonymous data from the sensors. “At the moment, they signify simply where people went, and, therefore, where they didn’t go. We are analysing the data now to rate each segment in terms of good and bad. Many people said even when places are physically accessible, they couldn’t go as they were unsafe,” Holloway told The Indian Express.
The research team is working on a “larger dataset of wheelchair accessibility of Delhi to identify what needs to be improved and deliver a service to wheelchair users to aid in their rehabilitation”.