Last year, a young wheelchair user from Chicago was attempting to travel to Union Station in order to catch a Metra train back to his home in Northbrook. Easy enough, you might think; sadly not.
Mohammad Ouyoun (21) arrived at the Merchandise Mart Brown Stop in River North without incident. He asked the Chicago Travel Authority (CTA) customer service agent which was the best stop for a Union Station connection and was advised to get off the train at the Quincy stop. Mohammad did as the agent had recommended only to discover that the Quincy stop has no elevator or even a ramp for travelers using a wheelchair. The young man, who has cerebral palsy and has been a wheelchair user his whole life, was dumbfounded not to mention somewhat annoyed.
Mohammad, who works as a software developer with Smart Chicago Collaborate, a group that creates apps to address city residents’ needs, immediately set about creating an app. The free app gives travelers journey plans that only show CTA stations with wheelchair ramps or functioning elevators. .
Roll with Me
The Roll with Me app lets users enter their location, destination, and the time they would like to depart. Wheelchair-friendly routes are shown together with a list of CTA alerts showing elevators that are out of service for example. The app is not the first designed to help wheelchair users to navigate transport networks; New York City has its own Wheely app, for example.
Of the CTA’s 145 railway stations, only 99 are wheelchair-friendly although all of its 1,800 buses have lowerable ramps which allow wheelchair users to board. A CTA spokesman said that they were unaware of just how many wheelchair users actually used the rail network but pointed out that CTA maps do clearly show which stations are wheelchair accessible. Accessible stations are also listed on their website together with a journey planner that allows users to indicate if they require wheelchair-friendly directions. Alerts are put on the CTA website if elevators are out of service and a list is also featured on a white board in the station entrance.
Reassuringly, it appears that the CTA are listening to public concerns and are planning to install more elevators around the network next year, including at the Quincy stop where Mohammad had difficulty.
Image source: Karman Healthcare