03.07.2015

Mapp4all: creating a Wikipedia of universal accessibility

Image | Mapp4all

A city with millions of inhabitants is dynamic and noisy. Thousands of people move from one place to another in pursuit of the office, the garage, the supermarket or the gym; a whirlwind of mobility that keeps the world spinning on a daily basis. However, not everyone can move around so easily; breaking a leg can show you how suddenly life in the city can become an obstacle course.

People with reduced mobility, a hearing or visual impairment, or even those who push prams need a specific plan whenever they want to go somewhere. Does the bank have a ramp as well as stairs? Does the restaurant have menus in Braille? Does the metro at the end destination have a lift to gain access to the street? In an ideal world, all places would meet minimum accessibility standards; however, citizens still often encounter insuperable difficulties.

Mapp4All has been created to put an end to this. Map4All is a free application for iOS and android that allows the user to find and locate accessible points of interest that are classified by category and level of accessibility. In this application, all types of both public and private establishments and points of interest are catalogued so that any citizen can check if their final destination meets their needs. The application also provides information services for people with babies or animals, or for those who are gluten intolerant. Restaurants, hotels, banks, theatres, public transport stops, shops, cultural centres, health centres, pharmacies, the opticians, notaries and bakeries are just some of the places listed on Map4all; ultimately, any place open to the public can be listed on the application. In the words of Josep Esteba, CEO of Mapp4All, “it’s about creating the Wikipedia of universal accessibility”. Mapp4all is an international app, enabling people to locate and consult establishments in cities as far as New York and Beijing. In Spain there are currently 20,000 created points, of which over 3,500 are in Barcelona.

M4A2

Image| Mapp4all

Any user who has signed up to Map4All can upload an establishment or update existing information. Companies can also register their establishments directly to the app. In Europe, 9% of the population suffers from some form of disability, and of this percentage, 20% are over 60 years old. “If we add these citizens to those who move around with children or animals or have an allergy, we are talking about 70% of users interested in actively using this application”, stated Esteba. 

Map4All is currently going through a process of expansion in terms of both technology and content. In the context of the Smart City Expo World Congress, which will take place in Barcelona in November, the aim is to be able to present a complete digitalisation of accessibility in Barcelona. To accomplish this aim, Josep Esteba’s team has the challenge of uploading a total of 500,000 points of interest. This would result in Barcelona becoming the first city in the world that offers its citizens and visitors a tool to know the degree of accessibility of various spaces at all times. From there, the strategy for 2016 is to digitalise other major Spanish cities such as Madrid, Sevilla, Valencia, Bilbao and A Coruña.

Smart cities are working to eliminate the barriers that determine how millions of people move around. Meanwhile, tools such as Map4All are an essential contribution to improving quality of life.