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Tue August 20 2019

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UK-India team to develop wheelchair-accessible maps of Delhi

21 Feb Researchers in the UK and India are using sensors to develop maps of wheelchair-accessible routes in Delhi and identify where upgrades are needed.

The Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI Hub), which is co-led University College London (UCL), is working with the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IIT-Delhi).

The Street Rehab project has been designed to gain a clear understanding of user needs, available technology and the accessibility of the city.

The UCL team has developed low-cost sensors that can identify features of the footpath and gauge how the wheelchair or tricycle users propel themselves. The sensors are linked to the user’s mobile phone, to make their mobility device part of the ‘Internet of Things’, and to enable users to access the sensor data via an app. They can also add geo-tagged photos or voice notes to annotate their journey.

“Infrastructure in India can often make pushing a wheelchair or tricycle difficult,” said UCL’s Dr Catherine Holloway, academic director of the GDI Hub. “We’re trying to identify how people are currently getting around in Delhi, to find new ways of facilitating rehabilitation and identifying ways to improve infrastructure.”

For the first stage of the Street Rehab project, the researchers teamed up with local NGOs to find wheelchair and tricycle users from across the socio-economic spectrum, who were the study participants and also advised on the development of the project.

Anonymous data from the participants’ sensors has helped create a map of accessibility in parts of Delhi.

The research team, led by Holloway alongside partners in the UK and India, is now continuing the project to develop a larger dataset of the wheelchair accessibility of Delhi, to then identify what needs to be improved.

“Development of assistive technologies for empowerment of people with disabilities is extremely important,” said IIT-Delhi’s Professor PV Madhusudhan Rao. “To achieve social and economic inclusion through research and innovation, UCL and IIT-Delhi will have joint activities in design, development and dissemination of assistive technology which sits between economic burden and economic prosperity.”

The GDI Hub seeks to accelerate disability innovation across the globe through co-design, collaboration and innovation. It was launched by mayor of London Sadiq Khan in September 2016 and stems from the legacy of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. The Street Rehab initiative is associated with a £10m GDI Hub project that aims to bring life-changing assistive technology, such as wheelchairs and eyeglasses, to all.

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