Thanks to the Mapotic mapping solution and focus on community sharing, users are inspired to be more outgoing and social than ever. They can also now visit new and exciting places knowing they can rely on access and help if they feel lost.
Alena Jancikova, General Manager, CZEPA
A spinal cord injury is a truly life-changing event. Not only is ability affected, but self-concept and self-confidence can be damaged too. Daily tasks that once seemed simple become immensely challenging. Even leaving the house can prove a battle. Not knowing whether an unfamiliar place – be it a restaurant, outdoor venue, gym, or shopping mall – has good wheelchair access could discourage a visit.
To ease this uncertainty, CZEPA came up with VozejkMap, a tailor-made solution for wheelchair users.
“Architectural barriers can create psychological paralysis. Wheelchair users may find the search for new facilities and barrier-free zones frustrating,” said Alena Jancikova, the Czech Paraplegics Association – CZEPA director and wheelchair user herself. “We are filling the database with information, but the cooperation and commitment from the users is crucial. I believe that the application is very beneficial and a useful part of wheelchair users’ everyday lives.”
The Czech Paraplegics Association – CZEPA is the biggest Czech NGO focused on helping wheelchair users with spinal cord injuries to live fuller and more connected lives. For wheelchair users, success equates to a normal life and freedom of movement – the organization focuses on giving wheelchair users the ability and confidence to decide where to visit, study, stay social and work, without restrictions.
Now, with the help of the Vozejkmap crowdsourcing project and the Mapotic mapping platform, CZEPA’s community members are growing more inspired than ever to connect, explore new areas and call the city their own.
VozejkMap is a unified and easy-to-use map of barrier-free sites not only in the Czech Republic. Places in the database are inserted and verified by wheelchair users themselves, and regional institutions and portals are also involved in the project. VozejkMap is available not only on desktop or laptop, but also on smartphones through the App store or Google Play (iOS and Android respectively).
In 2013, VozejkMap app was awarded a number of prizes – including Best NGO App in the Czech Republic. The team was also presented an additional Open Data Challenge award for their pioneering work using open data as they shared their datasets with multiple other projects, knowing the benefits sharing can bring.
Now, VozejkMap is getting ready for further growth and preparing to migrate to the new and updated Mapotic platform, complete with an even bigger focus on community engagement and all new features.
In 2012, the future founders of Mapotic met with CZEPA around the creation of a crowdsourced mapping solution for wheelchair users. For CZEPA, the implications were truly exciting. While other maps for wheelchair users already existed, most were highly fragmented. They were also often not updated regularly or covered only certain areas. Likely the biggest drawback – the maps didn’t support crowdsourcing or the use of open data.
As the first step toward their mapping goals, the team began researching the existing options and amenities for wheelchair users in the Czech Republic. Though they discovered major projects including wheelmap.org, they realised that they were inadequate for Czech purposes.
As there are different disability standards in every country, marking a location simply as “wheelchair friendly” is often not enough. This is because wheelchair users often need far more information – examples include whether there is a toilet, an elevator, for example, or the width of doors, and so on.
Another obstacle was English-only nature of many maps, which meant serious language barriers for community leaders and users alike.
“We want our members to gather around hobbies and form their own communities,” said Alena Jancikova, CZEPA General Manager. “We aim to nurture this because it builds closeness and connections. It’s important for people to have an opportunity to communicate, to spend time together, exchange information and share their experiences and emotions.”
All of this gave rise to the creation of VozejkMap. Having implemented the successful mapping model behind KdeSeKoupat (Swim Places), the team worked to refine and improve their new wheelchair mapping solution, enhancing the experience further with a mobile app.
From the beginning, crowdsourcing was a core element of the project. One crucial source of data has been wheelchair users themselves. VozejkMap administrators are also involved, placing calls to businesses or visiting target venues, and reporting back on their facilities and options.
Vozejkmap and Mapotic have been very important in furthering those goals. With the mapping tool, CZEPA’s community members are finding new inspiration to communicate, share and connect. And thanks to further cooperation with Skoda Auto and the Vodafone Foundation, users can look forward to further innovations, such as the ability to browse through wheelchair routes.
Further features are still being rolled out – around interacting, organising events, and new ways to contribute. But it’s the mobile app that’s really making a mark. “The mobile app is most important,” Alena notes. “People want to make the app a part of their everyday life.”
When it comes to further improvements the community would like to see, Alena elaborates: “We already mentioned routes and events. We also look forward to see the new options for updates, news, notifications, exploration or planning of interesting things. Getting all the information in one place will both speed up communication and save time.”
“Users were very happy seeing our focus on communities, as well as the increased amount of communication and interaction on the mapping platform,” Alena notes. “They also love the map feed and dashboard we will roll out soon. Thanks to VozejkMap, wheelchair users can get oriented in towns, in places they don’t know, or access help when they feel lost.”
Which also further encourages the advice and crowdsourcing approach embraced by both Mapotic and VozejkMap. This belief, embraced by users, meant that within only 4 years from its launch, the project had created the biggest Czech database of wheelchair-friendly locations, with nearly 10 000 venues mapped. More than this, the project openly shares its data, helping to ensure a better life for tens of thousands of people every year.
CZEPA has been very satisfied with the basic app, but is even more excited to be one of first users of the enhanced and upgraded Mapotic. Community leaders are excited and looking forward to the new features and community focus which are being built into the Mapotic platform step by step. It seems clear that the solution will be a great help to CZEPA in achieving its core goal – helping those with spinal cord injuries to live fuller, richer and more rewarding lives.
|Mission||Assisting wheelchair users with spinal cord injuries to live better, fuller and more connected lives.|
|Size||20 000+ active users|
European structural and investment funds Operation programme Prague – Growth Pole Czech Republic.