Project Sidewalk

Roughly 30.6 million individuals in the US have physical disabilities that affect their ambulatory activities; nearly half of those individuals report using an assistive aid such as a wheelchair, cane, crutches, or walker. Despite comprehensive civil rights legislation for Americans with disabilities, many city streets, sidewalks, and businesses remain inaccessible. The problem is not just that street-level accessibility affects where and how people travel in cities but also that there are few, if any, mechanisms to determine accessible areas of a city a priori.

This project describes a two-pronged vision: first, to develop scalable data collection methods for acquiring sidewalk accessibility information using a combination of crowdsourcing, computer vision, and online map imagery, and second, to use this new data to design, develop, and evaluate a novel set of navigation and map tools for accessibility. Our overarching goal is to transform the ways in which accessibility information is collected and visualized for every sidewalk, street, and building fa├žade starting in American and expanding to the world.

Since 2012, we have explored several methods of crowdsourcing accessibility data through paid crowdworkers and volunteers. The result of this effort is the namesake online crowdsourcing-based tool, projectsidewalk.io, for sidewalk accessibility data collection. However, under the larger Project Sidewalk umbrella, we have been exploring projects such as developing metrics for assessing urban accessibility, building accessibility visualizations, temporal tracking of accessibility amongst others. In these efforts, we have worked with different stakeholder groups including policymakers, transit departments, accessibility advocates, people with mobility disabilities, and caregivers. For more details on all of the different projects, visit https://makeabilitylab.cs.washington.edu/project/sidewalk/.

Project Members