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Austin - Inclusive City on Wheels

Will Austin boost its footpath network by engaging specially equipped local wheelchair pilots to map and find the best routes for improvment

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It has been a quarter of a century since the Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted.  So it is surprising that the largest and most pervasive piece of urban infrastructure, the sidewalk network, is still largely unsuitable for people with impaired mobility.  Many American cities face enormous gaps in sidewalk maintenance demands vs funding.

Briometrix has developed a solution that unites wheelchair users with municipal authorities  to solve the problem.

We employ people who use wheelchairs, equip their wheelchair with the surveying technology and train them to survey the paths in the Local Government Area or precinct.

We collect data on:

  • The effort required to travel the sidewalk
  • The access to the roadway with curb ramps
  • The access to the buildings and properties adjoining the sidewalks
  • The location of amenities and services
  • The sidewalk condition including cracks, heave, trip hazards and maintenance issues
  • Our mobility maps use universal colors to show effort. While slope is the major source of impedance, the addition of other factors such as cross slope, surface type and condition can quickly make a sidewalk impassable. Our maps can be understood without any prior knowledge or training
  • The data is the basis for an accessible routing services including public transport connections

We will survey the neighborhoods of East Austin - Cesar Chavez, Holly, Govalle, Rosewood, Chestnut and Central East Austin. We will focus on the key linkages between public transport and the major pedestrian destinations in downtown Austin. The survey will encompass areas of importance west of I-35 where jobs, recreation, medical and entertainment are located,  Downtown, The Medical District, Entertainment and the recreational areas in and around the Ann and Roy Butler Bike and Hike trail bordering Lady Bird Lake. 

 We have chosen these areas based on local community feedback that an active lifestyle, is beneficial to healthy living.  The ability to get out and interact with the community, especially for those with disabilities, is critical to their physical and mental health. Infrastructure, especially sidewalks, impacts their ability to participate in everyday parts of life, particularly in the communities that are facing dramatic cultural and economic shifts – Austin’s “Eastern Crescent” or “East Austin.” East Austin also has one of the highest percent, 15% - 20% of those with disabilities in the metropolitan area.

The Challenge has interpreted “access to healthy living” as the ability for someone to easily (i.e., safely affordably, conveniently) get to/from a location like a doctor’s office, a store with healthy food, a pharmacy, a recreational area, employment or a therapist.

All enjoy the independence with getting out into the community and having choices that fit their needs.  There is a struggle to find affordable, readily accessible transit options.

We acknowledge the sidewalk issues of Austin noted in the Challenge brief, especially the East Austin:

  • Sidewalks abruptly starting and ending
  • Worn walking path next to a major road
  • No passable sidewalks for people with disabilities
  • Lack of curb ramps or curb cuts

So why Brio mapping, how can we help? 

  • We can comprehensively access what is present
  • Provide the city ongoing vital data regarding issues so that they can determine priorities based on ADA compliance
  • Monitor routes to Transport hubs, schools, medical facilities, recreation to encourage walking and wheeling
  • Provide motivation to get ‘out and about’ with the Brio Go App as it tracks user fitness data specifically for Wheelchair User.  Brio Go App reports on session / time out traveling activities in terms of number of strokes, effort, calories, distance, time (it is like a Fitbit for Wheelchair Users).  The App also provides a personal map of each travel session

As determined by community feedback as well as numerous studies and research that walking / rolling helps relieve stress, prevents social isolation and encourage active choices.

How Austin Brio pilots will help

  • Lived experience
  • Selecting the best routes based on the current situations
  • Providing accurate data regarding the best sections to fix that will dramatically improve connectivity (80:20 rule)

We have learned from our other city projects that with local pilots’ knowledge, they can identify targeted improvement to get the maximum value of sidewalk maintenance investment.  Pilots from previous program continue to be engaged with Brio projects and report personal lifestyle changes based on the confidence gained from been a Brio pilot.

A recent Grattan Institute report found that improvements in pedestrian flows can often be achieved at low cost. It points out that a "walking audit" in London highlighted areas with the worst walking conditions. More than 100 "quick wins" were identified where inexpensive improvements could be made, which brought immense value to the overall network. We believe this can be achieve with Austin.

Brio wheelchair pilots will spearhead sidewalk network assessment for the benefit of 40% of Austin population.  Brio pilots will set the benchmark, “if a wheelchair user can travel there, practically everyone else can”.

Our work will focus on making progress with alternate destinations – discovering best routes to transportation.

Trips with favourable walking distances are rare for persons with destinations outside of grocery stores or physical activities. Most personas with these alternate destinations (e.g., physical therapy, doctor’s office) will need to plan their journeys in advance to ensure they can coordinate appropriate transportation and allot sufficient travel time.

Our Effort Map will encourage people to get out and about and capitalize on sidewalk linkage to: Grocery stores, clinics, parklands for physical activity that are present throughout and adjacent to East Austin, not just downtown. As a result, trip distances and travel times to these locations are shorter and used to help encourage healthy, active lifestyle choices.

Going Outside the box 

Austin’s city government has a Sidewalk Master Plan and citizen-led Pedestrian Advisory Council , which meets once a month to discuss issues relating to walkability and offers improvement suggestions to the city council.   Our wheelchair community would be able to provide up to date data for any area(s) under discussion and provide a new perspective for decision making from the ‘wheeling’ community.  As outlined Walkability ≠ Wheelability.

Most of the people that use the city’s transit system walk to their stations, and many others can’t afford to drive or are unable drive due to impairments. Sidewalks are an issue of not just safety, but also social justice, public health and affordability.

Recent audit (source A) has found the (1)city doesn't effectively track small-scale sidewalk projects, so some projects aren't accounted for. These projects don't always use proper inspection forms and are tracked "in a spreadsheet instead."

The audit suggests, (2)city engineers and crews need an inspection process to make sure they're in line with the state's disability access rules. Eighty-five percent of sidewalk projects were undertaken by contractors last year, and those contractors are required to follow the state's building codes to ensure accessibility. The audit says the Public Works Department doesn't have that requirement for city-designed or -constructed sidewalks.

"The Sidewalks Division has (3)no process to identify which sidewalks should receive accessibility inspections, when these inspections should happen, and how they should be documented," the audit noted.

These 3 areas noted in the Audit can all be simply and effectively address by Briometrix Footpath Intelligence program. And importantly have the ‘voice of the customer’ lived experience and knowledge integral in the process.

We work with ADA datasets, collect data with our wheelchair mounted device and apps, for the proposed 120 miles, completed in within 10 days with the Briometrix pilots.  Over the next 2-3 weeks the data is processed to provide interactive maps, based on each dataset layer.  This information will assist City planners, Infrastructure, Pedestrian Committee and others to identify priorities and add to your current city data.

With the additional development to the  Freemium Brio Go App, provided to the community by the City of Austin, the city will have continuous Live data from the local wheelchair community, which will highlight sidewalks most frequently used, or Pilots can travel desired routes to demonstrate issues for actions.

Source (A) for points 1, 2 and 3


Describe who will use your solution (1,000 characters)

Wheelchair community for daily commute needs –involving travel for work, shopping, socialising or medical appointments. Especially areas of East Austin. City visitors wishing to enjoy Austin Downtown, parklands and entertainment City resident with limited mobility or ill health, seeking low effort sidewalks. People who enjoy walking, especially with family, seeking a safe pedestrian pathway, away from traffic and hazards Community Health Workers – use the maps to encourage and inform people of the most appropriate pathways for health and activity, have the best connection to transport. The many sets of wheels moving into city life – strollers, scooters, bikes, delivery trolleys etc. City Councils, Local Government and Transport Authorities utilize Briometrix data to maintain sidewalk networks, improve connectivity, and track the cities accessible improvements. Tourism Department -replacement for the static PDF maps. Add accessible venue to attract tourism.

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Pilot - you have implemented your solution in a real-world scenario

Insights from previous testing (500 characters)

Employing local wheelchair users for mapping captures lived experience, including the unofficial routes known to locals. Integrating our Effort and Infrastructure data into the councils existing sidewalk information systems make maintenance and development priorities visible to all departments within the city government. Pilots gain confidence and knowledge working together, trying new journeys and out more City Leaders are delighted with the engagement of the community in city planning.

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

The founders have drawn on wide team experience to build, launch, and self-fund City-on-Wheels. Experience includes science, hardware and software engineering, GIS, local government, marketing, product & business development, and business management. Brio City-on-Wheels has employed, equipped and trained 60 wheelchair users (pilots) across 10 cities. Of these, 8 senior pilots, 4 field leaders and 2 GIS analysts are now engaged for ongoing contracts

Size of your team or organization

  • 2-10

Team or Organization URL

Funding Request

  • $100,000

Rough budget (500 characters)

Brio Go App - features forcrowd sourced mapping data, provide Live Data to council. App will be free to the residents of Austin, courtesy of Austin Council $22,000 Purchase of 2 wheelchair mounted LiDAR units ($8,000) Integration of software automation ($12,000) Employ & train 10 wheelchair users +field leaders to survey the routes, ($21,000 at cost) Data processing and Interactive map production ($21,000) Two Field Leaders (1x Aust) transport, accommodation ($9000) Total ($93,000)

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

We want to scale up our idea by completing an accessible wheels-on-footpath mapping project of Austin CBD, parkland and points of interest. We will conduct planning session with a broad base of city council staff (access and inclusion, infrastructure, transport, urban planning, GIS) to identify around 120 miles of sidewalk and parklands network in the City Centre. We will recruit, train, equip and employ 10 wheelchair users as Pilots, create a map for the public and an internal map for council planning for accessible tourism and social inclusion. Brio will supply the process the data, technology, and the execution of the mapping activity to final production of the Navability maps. Challenge funding will assist with: The cost of equipping 10 wheelchairs with loggers and cameras, including 2 wheelchairs with Lidar technology. Paying the wheelchair pilots to survey the streets, process and map the data. Development of the App for council use.

Describe how you would measure the success of your pilot (1000 characters)

We would measure success by these KPIs . Community confidence in maps (trust and use) • Increase in wheelchair community ‘out and about’ measured by Briometrix app • Austin Mobility Effort Map Web hits / usage • App downloads and usage  Pilot’s engagement and satisfaction with the overall process  City leaders perceived value of mapping with the community  Media and social engagement • Project roll over – continue mapping sidewalk miles • Project completed plan to actual, on time, to agreed budget • Infrastructure team value rating of Infrastructure Map • Number of risks and improvements cited • Actions taken by council in areas of poor performance or noncompliance for curb assessment, ramp assessment, surface condition, hazards • Potential cost saving for council through highlighting potential issues • Successful trial of new Briometrix App field performance Accessible sidewalks make economic sense for both local and tourism dollar (research backed)

Sustainability Plan (500 characters)

Councils assess their sidewalks at regular intervals from 6 months to 3 years. Briometrix believes that local wheelchair pilots can complete this task without intruding on the pedestrians or businesses using the sidewalks. We seek to establish ongoing supply relationships with the City of Austin and transport authorities, using the local wheelchair pilots to monitor the Cities sidewalks condition and create visible reporting on progress for inclusive City and Transport.

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Attachments (3)

Austin City One Challenge USER JOURNEY.pdf

Outling the wheelchair user role, Brio techology, process, datasets, maps And why this is important to Briometrix

Austin City One Challenge MAIN IMAGE.pdf

Showing the visual difference using Brio Effort Map - color coded rating of sidewalk routes

Austin City One Challenge PROPOSAL WORK .pdf

Outline of our the intended project area - map boundaries 120 miles. The Briometrix process, wheelchair user involvement, Brio technology, outline of the ADA datasets collected, two interactive maps that display 12 data layers.


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