App Aims at Better Accessibility Around the City

People with disabilities navigating the streets of Edmonton will soon have a new tool to try out. The  “Click ’n’ Push” app will measure how much force a person in a wheelchair exerts while navigating the city, and then predict the degree of difficulty of a route, taking into account the user’s strength.

Created by a professor of rehabilitation and medicine at the University of Alberta, it comes from studies he and his team conducted in the United Kingdom, where he found that of a thousand people using wheelchairs, 70 per cent reported having shoulder pain.  “Your shoulders, your tendons, your arms, your elbows your wrists, all of them can get worn out as a result of pushing a wheelchair around.”

The app uses sensors that already exist in a cell phone, such as navigation, the incline of a surface and GPS, and a program that tracks the force required to move a wheelchair around. “When you superimpose that information on top of a map, you can figure out how hard it’s going to be.”

Its creator hopes to launch the app over the summer of 2018. He says the app could help people in wheelchairs with their employment and gain more confidence about travelling around. “If you aren’t confident about venturing out or if you have problems venturing out that causes social isolation,” he said. He hopes city planners will see the utility of this tool. “Planners can then look at the hot spots in our map and say here is a particularly difficult path for wheelchair users to get around.”