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Indianapolis City-on-Wheels. Making accessibility visible.

Will Indianapolis be the first city in the USA to engage wheelchair pilots to map and improve its sidewalk network?

Photo of Natalie Verdon
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While cities have made major advances in providing accessible transport and addressing building access issues, the route in-between has largely been neglected. Navability addresses the effort, missing connectivity, barriers, distance penalties and journey ride experience …factors that influence the desire to make the journey.

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.  A wheelchair is the ideal vehicle. Built to travel on footpaths, moving at pedestrian speed, capable of reaching CBD, parklands, shared pathways, transport platforms, it represents an ideal platform for data collection.

The wheelchair operates at the margins of the performance envelope for wheeled sidewalk vehicles, and thus paves the way for other mobility solutions such Scooters, hire bikes, baby strollers, shopping carts, wheeled luggage etc.  The wheelchair ensures inclusion and accessibility for the wider community.

We collect geolocated data on:

  • The effort required to navigate the section of footpath - slope, cross slope, shudder, pavement type, surface condition
  • The access to the road with kerb ramps - location, orientation, approach and departure angle
  • The access to the buildings and properties adjoining the footpath
  • The location of facilities and services
  • The footpath condition including cracks, heave, trip hazards and maintenance issues with geolocated record and images.
  • Our mobility maps use universal colours 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.  

The Project

We will survey Downtown Indianapolis, including the Methodist Hospital, Lucas Oil Stadium and Convention Centre, IUPUI university and associated Medical Centre.  We will also map the Mononon trail (refer PPT map).  We will focus on the key linkages between public transport nodes and the major pedestrian destinations in downtown Indianapolis.  We will work with the Pedestrian access plan and the neighbourhood revitalization plan

We have chosen these areas base on local community feedback that found

  • some residents are so concerned about their ability to get to/from the bus stop safely that they avoid healthcare trips and errands all together. 
  • many of the mobility options currently available to residents with physical limitations do not accommodate for the small details that make the difference between a successful or stressful trip.
  • For those living with limitations, the mobility journey starts at their front door – designing solutions that support these residents from that very first step all the way through to their destination is critical to their ability to navigate the city

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

Indianapolis has 67,000 residents with a mobility/ambulatory disability including people who use wheelchairs, mobility scooters, walking aids, people with diminished mobility due to age, ill health, or injury. Other seeking a journey of least effort include parents with children in strollers., or young children 1-4 years Local Government and Transport Authorities utilize Briometrix maps and data to maintain sidewalk networks, improve connectivity, attract tourists, and track the cities accessible improvements. City council, Government departments of Transport and Infrastructure, Accessible Tourism, Campus – universities, schools, Parks and Trails and Event management For Indy Mobility Users – 35% (second highest priority) Walking was the mode most frequently used during the week. Navability is a typical example of “Solution for All”. See PowerPoint attachment for User Journey

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 footpath information systems makes maintenance and development priorities the project visible to all departments within the city government. Pilots gain confidence and knowledge working together, and report that post the mapping activity they are trying new journeys and getting out and about more.

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, equiped and trained around 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

Funding Request

  • $100,000

Rough Budget (500 characters)

Produce upgraded equipment for USA 10 data loggers/cameras ($20,000) Purchase of 2 wheelchair mounted LiDAR units ($8,000) Integration of software automation ($12,000) Employ and train 10 wheelchair users and field leaders to survey the routes, ($21,000 at cost) Data processing and Interactive map production ($21,000) Two Field Leaders (1x Australian) Accommodation, transport, food ($9,000) Total - $91,000

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 Indianapolis 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 125 miles of pathway 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 Challenging 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,

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

1. Meeting the needs raised in project Indy Increase in making healthcare trips and errands (community survey) Increase in wheelchair community ‘out and about’ measured by Briometrix app 2. Pilot project delivery Project is completed plan to actual, on time, to agreed budget Wheelchair Pilot satisfaction /value survey Community satisfaction / value rating of Mobility Map Usage – number of hits on Mobility Map Comments and suggestions Extent of media interest City council Infrastructure team satisfaction / value rating of Infrastructure Map 3. Post pilot value Number of risks and improvements cited Proposed actions / resolutions taken by council in areas of poor performance by type Connectivity assessment, Curb assessment, Ramp assessment, Surface condition, hazards Council interest or engagement of Brio for further mapping Potential cost saving for council through highlighting potential issues 4. Successful trial of new Briometrix equipment Field performance

Sustainability Plan (500 characters)

Councils assess their footpaths 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 footpaths. We seek to establish ongoing supply relationships with the City of Indianapolis and transport authorities, using the local wheelchair pilots to monitor the Cities footpath condition and create visible reporting on progress for inclusive City and Transport.
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Attachments (2)

Indianapolis City One Challenge MAIN IMAGE.pdf

Making accessibility visible to all; Demonstrating the Briometrix Effort Maps compared to a Google Map

Indianapolis City One Challenge CORE PRESENTATION.pdf

Describes the proposed Indy mapping project Outlines the project process and technology Explains the benefits of Briometrix


Join the conversation:

Photo of Natalie Verdon

Hello Liz,
Thank you so much for your feedback. Your idea of providing the Indy Accessibility Guide link on our Brio Maps web page is terrific.
When we work with clients /councils in Australia we include this type of great data on the Brio Map. That way our wheelchair users can place a location pin on the map (say the pick the Zoo) , and select the NEAR ME function. They can select the distance, (like one block or three blocks) and NEAR ME it will show all the parking, toilets, close transport, cafes etc. and the sidewalk route effort rating to travel to those places. (green is an easy roll, or orange... tough roll) in that selected distance.

We would be very keen to include all these Indy accesible places in our Map Legend - Indianapolis Zoo, IMAX Theatre, Newfields and all POIs noted. Accessible Restuarant, Hotels. So many great place.... looking forward to been a tourist in Indy!

I looked at a number of locations - and found the individual maps for Cultural Trail or White River State Park - this is another way we can support - by creating these as Brio Accessible Effort Maps.

Our goal is -after we have completed our inital mapping program, the Council project leaders can continue to work with the community to undertake Brio Mapping and add more miles and accessible places from across the city and neighbourhoods- and support accessible tourism and lifestyle needs adn choices for the local community.

Andy will be at the workshop this Thursday (I am linked in)- and would be pleased to show you these map functions and love to gain your feedback.

That is a great website resource - thank you for contacting us
My apology to take a few days to response.
Best, Nat

Photo of Elizabeth Durden

Nat, I understand you're very busy. Thank you for responding. You will love Indy. Downtown is so nice and it's growing daily. I'm looking forward to meeting with you and Andy Thursday. I will share any additional resources I find with you as well. "When we help each other we help ourselves."

Photo of Natalie Verdon

Magic :) thanks so much Liz.
Exciting times for everyone on this Ford Indy journey.
Andy and I have had a great time connecting and learning from Indy wheelchair community. Looking forward to sharing ideas and stories on Thursday.

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