Wheelchair accessible maps are developing in India

Wheelchair accessible maps are developing in India


Image: Sunset, India, Delhi, historical sights, Gate, road, smartphone screen


Street Rehab is a project to improve the accessibility of urban infrastructure for people with wheelchairs in Delhi, the capital of India. The project united social tasks, scientific achievements and resources of NGOs. The technical part is the responsibility of researchers from the Global Disability Innovation Hub, co-led by UCL (University College London) in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IIT-Delhi). Street Rehab participants were volunteers from local public organizations, people with disabilities in the region. Among the practical results of the project will be the accessibility maps of Delhi and other technological solutions for creating a barrier-free environment.

“Infrastructure in India can often make pushing a wheelchair or tricycle difficult. We’re trying to identify how people are currently getting around in Delhi, to find new ways of facilitating rehabilitation and identifying ways to improve infrastructure,” said Dr Catherine Holloway (UCL Interaction Centre), the Academic Director of the Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI Hub).


Image: wheelchair on the road

How does the project work? Researchers at UCL have developed special low-cost sensors that can identify features of the sidewalk and gauge how the wheelchair or tricycle users propel themselves. The sensors are linked to the user’s mobile phone, to make their mobility device part of the Internet of Things, and to enable users to access the sensor data via an app. They can also add geo-tagged photo or voice notes to annotate their journey. 

Anonymous data from the participants’ sensors has helped create a map of accessibility in parts of Delhi. The research team, led by Dr Holloway alongside partners in the UK and India, is now continuing the project to develop a larger dataset of the wheelchair accessibility of Delhi, to then identify what needs to be improved and to deliver a service to wheelchair users to aid in their rehabilitation.

“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,” said Professor P. V. Madhusudhan Rao (IIT-Delhi).