Mobile app promotes disability access

The need for information on wheelchair-accessible buildings was the inspiration behind a phone and computer app designed by NUI Maynooth students to help promote disability access.

The idea came to fruition last year and is now vying for a top international prize in the US this week.

For Matthew McCann, of the Access Earth team, a visit to the London 2012 Olympics helped him come up with the plans, as the hotel he booked was advertised as wheelchair accessible.

“Upon arrival, I quickly learnt this was not the case,” said Mr McCann. “There were three steps up to the hotel entrance, no ramp and many of the doors were too narrow to be navigated by a wheelchair.

“As someone with cerebral palsy, this lack of accurate information is something I have become accustomed to over the years.”

Along with KC Grant and Jack Gallagher, Mr McCann spent the last two years developing the Access Earth product, which is available online or for Windows Phone, with work continuing on apps for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices.

With information supplied by members of the public, anyone can check the site or the app to find a range of information about places they might be visiting. Data that can be found includes details on external features such as drop-off points, lighting, handrails, ramps, and automatic doors, with inside facilities such as toilets, counter heights, lifts, and layout for wheelchair users also described.

The trio were picked as Irish winners of the Microsoft Imagine Cup in March, and are in Seattle this week as one of 35 teams at the global student technology competition.


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