New Mobile App Provides 411 on Accessibility

By AXS Lab

AXS Map ('access map') is a crowd‐sourced tool for sharing reviews on the wheelchair accessibility of businesses, restaurants, entertainment centers, and other day-to-day destinations available online or via mobile web, as well as Android and iPhone applications.

Jason DeSilva Bio Photo

For some it may be surprising to learn that as many as nine out of ten businesses on a city block may be inaccessible to people using wheelchairs and scooters. For many, inaccessibility is an endless source of frustration; lack of awareness, social attitudes and exclusionary design situate people with disabilities on the periphery of their communities and society at large. This can result in a "civil death," often a greater torture than living with the disability itself. This marginalization is reflected in numerous studies showing disproportionately high instances of unemployment and low income among people with disabilities.

For the 13.2 million people in North America who have mobility impairments, AXS Map aims to ease the burden of social exclusion by providing people with disabilities the freedom to be spontaneous about where they eat, shop, work, and play. Want to go to dinner and a movie, but unsure if there's an accessible restaurant near an accessible theater? Search AXS Map to get a literal lay of the land, complete with reviews and details about the particular levels of access; is the business technically accessible (e.g. no steps to enter the establishment, but the ramp is too steep), or truly accessible (e,g, the entrance ramp has an easily navigable incline). AXS Map aims to combine many different voices and points of view on one shared network, both creating a workable resource for and reinforcing a community of people who care about access and inclusion.

AXS Map Screenshot

Jason DaSilva, the creator of AXS Map, is a Canadian filmmaker, who has had films in Sundance, on CBC, HBO, and PBS. He has also been recognized for his convergent media work receiving the "Emerging Innovator" award at the Canada New Media Awards in 2008. About six years ago, Jason was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and lost the ability walk over the course of five years. Because of the challenges and difficulties he faced getting around, he came up with the idea for AXS Map.

"I never thought about people in wheelchairs going up and down stairs and taking cabs," said DaSilva. "Only after it happened to me, did my eyes get opened up."

In 2011, Jason received a grant from Google Earth Outreach and a couple other foundations to build a prototype of AXS Map. After receiving this funding, Jason partnered with Kevin Bluer, a skilled technologist and entrepreneur, to build the first prototype, and Jason and Kevin discussed the project at "Maps for Good," part of the prestigious Google I/O conference, in June 2012.

Wendy Levy, Creative Director of the MacArthur Award-winning Bay Area Video Coalition, called AXS Map "game-changing. Jason has designed a story-driven, socially oriented platform for health reform and social justice for the disability community. Jason is moving his story world into a fully interactive space."

DaSilva and AXS Lab are currently refining and spreading the word about AXS Map, encouraging like-minded organizations and individuals to contribute to the database by holding mapping days in New York City. For more information and to start mapping, please visit www.AXSlab.org, or www.AXSmap.com.

Jason DaSilva is also the director of the newly released award-winning film, When I Walk.

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