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Crowdsourcing site aims to be world leader for venue accessibility data

A new online platform built around user ratings and feedback is aiming to become “the world’s leading provider of accessible venue information,” according to the site’s developer.

The Access Earth site is about to launch in full after ten months of public testing in beta stage, with a mobile app to follow soon. The platform allows users to give scores and leave comments about the accessibility of hotels, restaurants and other locations around the world. This information is then available to other users.

The platform was developed in 2012, after Matt McCann – who has cerebral palsy – had booked a hotel describing itself online as ‘wheelchair accessible’. On arrival, McCann found steps to the entrance and rooms too small for his rollator mobility aid, sparking both frustration and a desire to help prevent these situations for others.

McCann told e-Access Bulletin: “I knew that being a software engineer I could do something about this lack of specific accessibility information.”

The site’s database of venues across the globe is currently split into four categories, covering places to eat and drink, places to sleep, shopping, and things to do. Users select a venue type and where around the world they want to search, before specifying accessibility criteria, such as step-free access, ground floor rooms, and accessible bathrooms.

Anyone can supply a venue accessibility rating, either by answering Access Earth’s ‘accessibility criteria’ or leaving a note: “This could be something like ‘the elevator is currently out of order’, or directions to the accessible bathrooms,” McCann said. “By keeping the access information up-to-date, we can ensure people have the most accurate information available to them.”

Users can also add and rate a new venue if it isn’t already on the database, as well as sharing information and tips with other users.

The full Access Earth site will allow users to personalise their searches based on their own individual accessibility criteria. Different profiles for different access needs can also be created, McCann said: “For example, someone may need only step-free access when on their own, but they might also want an accessible bathroom when with a friend. Users can now switch between those different profiles.”

An Access Earth app, scheduled for the end of August, will allow users to easily leave accessibility feedback about locations from a mobile device.

Access Earth is one of a number of new and existing platforms that provide crowdsourced location access information, including Johnny’s Pass, Euan’s Guide (read our interview with the founder of Euan’s Guide at the following link: http://eab.li/1l ) and Wheelmap. In March, one of Wheelmap’s developers, Holger Dieterich, told e-Access Bulletin that his goal was to share the site’s user-data with other location-based services, so that more people can use it.

McCann is also keen to explore the idea of information-sharing for Access Earth in the longer-term. “Collaboration is definitely something that we would look to try and do in the future,” he said. “It’s great that there are other people out there tackling this problem, it just shows that this is a worldwide issue that needs to be addressed.”

Read more at the Access Earth website:
http://eab.li/1m .

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