Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Washington DC, District of Columbia, United States
Portland, Oregon, United States
Development of AccessPath: A pedestrian wayfinding tool tailored towards wheelchair users and individuals with visual impairments
This study developed a pedestrian wayfinding application (app) called AccessPath tailored towards people with disabilities based on their abilities to navigate sidewalks and pedestrian pathways. AccessPath is a free mobile app that takes into account the pathway network, quality of routes, route geometry, and customizable user settings when suggesting detailed, turn-by-turn directions of a recommended pedestrian route. People with disabilities were included in discussions from the beginning of the project to refine each app feature and key design components. Four focus groups were conducted, one representing each of the following disabilities: mobility impairment, visual impairment, cognitive disability, and hearing impairment. In Phase 2, a survey was conducted with people with disabilities to understand which features should be prioritized in future development efforts. This prioritized feature development helped to identify the features to be included during Phase 2. Sidewalk conditions such as tripping hazards, roughness, running slope, cross slope, imagery, and geo-location were collected using a multi-sensor rolling sidewalk profiling tool along approximately 60 miles of pathway in Pittsburgh, PA and 50 miles of pathway in Washington, DC. In addition, to test scalability, data along 50 linear miles were collected in Portland, OR using aerial imagery. A tool that facilitates ‘crowdsourcing’ of sidewalk attributes was also developed and thousands of sidewalk attributes have been collected by pedestrians in cities across the U.S. and in a select number of cities internationally. AccessPath can be used for pre-trip planning or real-time navigation. The app enables users to submit reports about hazards, construction, accessible entrances, and the level of accessibility indoors, which facilitates information sharing among users of the app. The app provides other important features such as favorites, alerts, recent paths, What’s Around Me, and VoiceOver/TalkBack compatibility. An extension of the development phase for the app included an Application Programming Interface (API) comprised of three sections allowing others to implement accessible routing features into their own custom apps: Routing, Locations, and Users APIs.
By listening to the needs of users, PathVu was able to more accurately design the app around what the user wants rather than based on our pre-conceived assumptions. A survey was conducted with 33 people of varying abilities (requiring use of wheelchair or crutches, visual, cognitive, or auditory impairments) and disabilities to help rate which features were most important.
Prior to creating the prioritized list of features, it was determined by pathVu that the important factors for prioritization included: 1) User ratings, 2) Level of effort needed for implementation, 3) Scalability, and 4) USDOT Accessible Transportation Technologies Research Initiative (ATTRI) rating.
The average of the survey results, combined with the estimated level of effort for implementation and the ability to scale, established a prioritization calculation between 1 (low priority) and 5 (high priority).
- Identification of “Accessible Entrances” was found to be the top feature for wheelchair users. It received an average rating of 5 (out of 5) by all respondents who use a wheelchair.
- Based on the survey results, “legend”, “redirecting and rerouting” and “haptic alerts” were the top three features identified with the highest priority among all respondents.
- “Transit Accessibility”, “Emergency Button”, “Indoor Accessibility”, “Accessible Entrances” were recognized as helpful accessibility features (rank 4 and 5 out of the 15) by all respondents.
- Other accessibility features such as “Accessible Parking” had a mid-priority ranking (rank 8 out of 15).
- Desired accessibility features including “New obstacles due to construction”, “Degrees of slope or incline”, “Paving material such as bricks or stones”, “Bicycle lanes that could be used by wheelchair users”, and “point out a desired route that has no accessibility” were suggested by wheelchair users.
- Desired features including “button for additional info”, “Alarm when bus is 1 minute away”, “Ability to shake phone to get information”, and “Flag location of where you parked” were suggested by blind/visually impaired respondents.