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New tool makes DC sidewalks more accessible for everyone

Students and faculty at a University of Maryland computer lab have developed an interactive tool that’s helping to make D.C.’s streets more accessible for people with disabilities.

Project Sidewalk allows users anywhere in the world to take a virtual walk through D.C. neighborhoods.

Project Sidewalk is like Waze or a navigational system for people with disabilities. It’s a crowd-sourced view of current conditions, including trouble spots like broken pavement or blocked sidewalks. And if you have access to a computer, you can help people with mobility issues.

"Life with a disability can be challenging. It can be frustrating. It can also be successful," said Rick Eldridge.

A devastating car crash changed Eldridge’s life forever.

"It’s still life that has value," said Eldridge.

For Eldridge, mobility means freedom and independence.

A trip to the local coffee shop is a route Eldridge knows.

For wheelchair users across D.C., an unknown path wracked with potential barriers may convince them to stay inside.

Project Sidewalk is a new interactive tool created inside a University of Maryland computer lab. It offers a crowd-sourced solution to access issues.

Here’s how it works: Log onto a computer and you will be virtually dropped into a D.C. neighborhood like this one. Your mission is to label any obstacles for wheelchair users, like this bus stop that has no sidewalk and no curb ramps.

The ultimate goal of Project Sidewalk is to help people with mobility issues get from point A to point B.

Project Sidewalk is starting in D.C. and hoping to expand to cities across the country. Ultimately, the plan is to allow someone with a mobility issue to log in, input their type of disability and then be able to learn which route offers the most accessible path.

If you’d like to help label Project Sidewalk’s virtual landscape, click here.


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