People who use wheelchairs normally have to reroute their travel to bypass stairs and find accessible entrances, but that’s likely to change in the near future. Researchers at the University of Alberta are trying every possible course of action to turn the theory of wheelchair wayfinding into reality.
The HealthHack Competition is part of the City of Edmonton's Smart Cities Challenge that invites residents to propose suggestions to make Edmonton a healthy city. The recently concluded competition was won by an app that recognizes the energy needed to maneuver the city using a wheelchair.
Martin Ferguson-Pell, a UAlberta biomedical engineer in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, said: “people who use wheelchairs often find the built environment very challenging, and if they can’t navigate it, they suffer social isolation and miss out on what the city has to offer.”
According to Ferguson-Pell, the app bearing Click'N'Push moniker enables users to determine a route on the basis of energy required to reach a specific place during winter or summer. The prototype boasts a feature that let users select their respective strength.
“The result is that you will see hotspots on an exertion map that are matched to your strength and indicate places you will find harder to navigate, and then you can change your route accordingly," Ferguson-Pell added.
There were 38 entries referred to as 'technology-based health proposals' in the HealthHack competition, but Click'N'Push app was selected as a finalist. Master’s student Musi Ala, research associate Kenton Hamaluik, and Ferguson-Pell were given just a month to develop a prototype and present it to a panel of judges elected by the city.
They modified and took advantage of an already existing technology called Redliner, which was developed by Ferguson-Pell. The aforesaid technology provides vital information such as speed, distance, and overexertion to wheelchair users.
The team earned $5,000 for 1st place prize. They have now collaborated with TEC Edmonton to make a business plan, accumulate stakeholders' feedback and are leaving no stone unturned in order to make the app a reality.
Ferguson-Pell said, "the basis of the business model is to garner contracts to create exertion maps for the City of Edmonton, Shaw Centre, Telus World of Science or Ice District, for example, which they could share with the public,” Ferguson-Pell added.
“Encouraging wheelchair use is a win for everyone,” he added. (Image Credit: IanDScofieldWriter / Pixabay)