Wheelmap.org – find places suitable for handicapped people

Wheelchair (Wice@openclipart.org, public domain)

Wheelchair (Wice@openclipart.org, public domain)

Wheelmap.org is a map displaying various points of interest as a separate layer on top of openstreemap tiles. All of the PIOs are clickable. The map can answer questions like »Where’s the next restaurant with full wheelchair access?«.

But that’s only one half of the story. Users can also edit and classify the POIs to decide whether they are accessible by impaired persons. The classification in turn makes it back into the openstreetmap database. The following values are used for the wheelchair key:

wheelchair=yes
wheelchair=limited
wheelchair=no
wheelchair=designated (used seldom)

Wheelmap.org provides a flowchart (german language only) to decide which tag to use for a particular on-site situation.

So what’s special about wheelmap.org? More or less, nothing. Except for the fact that it is one evidence that openstreetmap.org is not just an ordinary map. Instead, it is a huge database hosting geographic data, which in turn can be used to create various outputs. Rendering maps is just one of its uses. Collecting information about wheelchair compatibility of POIs is another. And collecting information about the smoothness of highway surfaces is a third.

What I find interesting is that openstreetmap makes things possible that never happened without the free geodata the project provides. No commercial company has an interest in providing a service like wheelmap.org. But meanwhile such services are possible using the geodata of openstreetmap.org, free of charge. Yes (and fortunately), the web is democratizing information.