Engagement for Wheelmap.org shows itself in many different ways and for many different reasons. The English user Ted has taken on a special mission – tagging as many places as possible in the surroundings of the Marciac Jazz Festival in southwest France.

The beginning of August is the time of year when it gets crowded in the small medieval town of Marciac. More than 200,000 visitors are attracted by the big names of well-known bands, artists and musicians who have announced their presence at the Marciac Jazz Festival – one of the biggest music festivals in France since 1978.

It is the same event that has become a fixed date in this year’s mapping schedule of Wheelmap and OpenStreetMap user Ted Pottage from Surrey, UK.  As the Vice-Chair of the Disability Alliance Network Surrey East and the Director of the Surrey Coalition of Disabled People, he advocates for disability rights in the UK.

In the course of his engagement Ted got connected to the local French wheelchair user association. He agreed to contribute his mapping skills in preparation for this year’s Jazz Festival, during which French activists want to promote Wheelmap.org to visitors using a wheelchair.

Mapping strategies for Marciac using OSM and Wheelmap.org

Ted’s goal is to fully map Marciac and the neighbouring towns. This is a lot of work since most of the places first need to be added to OpenStreetMap which provides the basic geo data for Wheelmap.org: “I always have to add some new nodes to OSM (Openstreetmap) and reposition some roughly located ones. Then I can tag the accessibility, add a comment and the photos. The rapid refresh of newly added data on both OSM and Wheelmap has made this process far easier than it was a few years ago”, Ted summarizes his mapping strategy.

As an OSM mapper, he came across Wheelmap in 2011. He has used Wheelmap.org on a regular basis ever since he discovered the Wheelmap app with his first Android smartphone. “I wish there was an equally easy to use and edit app for hearing loop accessibility”, he says.

Ted maps the wheelchair accessibility with his smartphone in two ways: 1. Ad hoc mapping of places he visits for meetings or as a tourist. 2. Zone mapping, where he snaps a photo of every shop front, public toilet etc. along a given street or shopping promenade. “Grandpa, why do you have so many photos of toilets on your phone?” his grandchild has wanted to know.

Empowerment and map solutions on the way to “Access-4-All”

From what Ted has experienced, available accessibility information is not always reliable. That’s why he finds it important to encourage wheelchair users in his network who are members of the Surrey Disability Register, to start mapping places they can or can’t access themselves. “This may need some empowerment training to give them the confidence”, he says.

Obviously, mapping the area around Marciac in France is only one of Ted’s projects. He has collected lots of accessibility data in the UK which makes it possible to find concrete solutions:  “One project I am asking the public authorities in Surrey to consider in 2017 is adding a layer to the County Interactive map www.surreycc.gov.uk to show all bus stops I have tagged on Wheelmap as well as street crossings where dropped kerbs and tactile paving are installed. This makes journey planning easier for wheelchair & mobility aid users, especially when they get off a bus in a town which is new to them.”

His motivation for his engagement in the UK adds up to an overall goal: “All things Access-4-All: A wheelchair friendly doorway, bus stop or crossing is great for a Grandpa with a pushchair too, and who knows when I might no longer be able to climb stairs.”

Photos: Timo Hermann / Gesellschaftsbilder.de, 2016

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