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Accessibility Maps

While working on the MapRoots project lately, I built a set of icons to represent accessibility resources on a map: Braille placards, TTY/TTD devices, wheelchair-accessible buildings, etc.  (You can download the icons here :)

When I started researching this part of the project, I came across various examples of accessibility maps created by cities and organizations - I thought some of these were worth sharing.

Campus Maps

Colleges and universities want to be as accessible as possible, of course, and because they have fairly complete control over a discrete campus, I found that they tended to have fairly detailed accessibility maps, especially when compared to city-wide efforts.  Of course, I didn't research these enough to actually go check the accuracy and whether they are up to date - although if anyone wants to sponsor that research, I am pretty sure that the University of Honolulu's maps deserve much closer in-person scrutiny.

My favorite of the college accessibility maps I found was the University of Missouri's Campus Accessibility Map.  I'm not sure what engine they're using, but this is a full-fledged mapping application.  Information is available about various curb cuts, elevators, impediments and barriers, and more - searchable on a building-by-building basis or by panning around a map interface and filterable based on type of feature.  Users can shortcut jump to specific buildings, as well as print any map generated to take with them.

screenshot of Mizzou's Campus Accessibility Map Application

Yale University's Resource Office on Disabilities maintains a campus map of accessibility features.  It's not as "GIS-tastic" as Mizzou's, but it seems to be comprehensive.  The campus is broken up into multiple HTML image maps, each one with a detailed view of its particular area.  Each building is labeled and forms another image map  composed of accessibility features.  Clicking a feature launches a popup with specific information about that entrance, ramp, restroom, etc.  Having worked on image map-based interfaces before, even with automated tools, I can't imagine this is a lot of fun to maintain, but it seems effective.

screenshot of Yale University's accessibility map

On the other end of the spectrum, I found the University of Texas-Austin's maps to be incredibly difficult to use.  In UTA's defense, there is a prominent notice at the top of each accessibility page noting that the maps are being updated.  I really hope they are also consulting with a cartographer / usability resource as well, because even as a sighted person, I had to zoom in with my browser and then consult the confusing legend.  

screenshot of UTA's campus accessibility map

Municipal Maps (City, Town, etc.)

The city of Kingston, Ontario (that's in Canada, by the way :) doesn't have the most technical sophistication - the maps are static GIFs with a downloadable PDF option for each one.  However, the maps are usable and comprehensive: accessibility features and designated parking are available for the entire city as well as specific points of interest, like Olympic Harbour and City Park.

screenshot of Kingston, Ontario accessibility map

Sydney, NSW, Australia publishes guides to accessible parking and transit online, as well as this aesthetically-pleasing map of the central business district.  The city is working on installing tactile signage (including Braille), additional audio signals at traffic/pedestrian crossings, and more.  One feature I liked about their maps is the shading of grade - for users with limited mobility, knowing how steep certain hills are is crucial.

screenshot of sydney australia accessibility map

Speaking of steep hills, how does a progressive American city like San Francisco compare to these international counterparts?  Unfortunately, I couldn't find any dedicated accessibility maps for San Francisco.  Muni Transit and the other agencies have accessible route/station maps (like virtually all cities), but even the Mayor's Office on Disability didn't contain any online maps of accessibility features.  The closest thing I could find was this 2007 map of accessible pay toilets in downtown SF embedded in a visitor's guide for visitors with disabilities.  San Franciscans - if I'm mistaken, please send me any useful links so I can update this post!

map of public pay toilets in San Francisco

I did find many references to a nonprofit called Access Northern California.  Their site doesn't have any interactive map features (yet? :-) but does have an accessible hotel search app as well as links to accessibility resources and guides for half of the state, even up to Siskiyou and over to Reno/Tahoe.

I'm going to add an Accessibility category to the MapTogether resource library so we can start cataloging these efforts and similar ones.  As always, if you have a useful map resource to contribute, please use our submission form.