2021 HAPI 2nd Prize Winner
As the population ages, the accessibility of public and private spaces has gained even greater importance and attention. Ensuring that people with mobility impairments remain engaged with their communities is crucial for their mental and physical health. However, a trip to an unfamiliar place for a wheelchair user or others with limited mobility can require a good deal of information, careful planning, and courage. WheeLog!, an application for cellphones and computers, addresses some of these challenges by creating an interactive map that allows wheelchair users and those who are mobility-challenged to clearly see the accessibility of public spaces, sharing barrier-free-related information from all over Japan—and hopefully around the world in the near future. Currently, there are 29,000 users, of whom approximately 30 percent are wheelchair users. It is the only crowdsourced map in the world that makes it possible to visualize the routes wheelchair users have actually taken. The more users WheeLog! has, the more information is gathered and shared to enable other users to prepare for their visit in advance.
Users can check the app to see whether a store or restaurant is barrier-free, what the best route is to get to their destination, whether there is an accessible parking or an accessible bathroom in the area, and so on. And they can check what other users had to say about the location. Or they can share their own feedback and the route they took with other users.
WheeLog also focuses on the challenge of how to remove the barriers within people’s minds to deepen their empathy for people with mobility impairments, lessen the digital divide, and develop an inclusive society by removing tangible barriers. In order to engage not only the mobility-restricted but persons without disabilities as well, they organize “city strolling events” through towns all over the country to gather information for the app and to give participants the opportunity to experience using a wheelchair. Nationwide, more than 30 city strolling events have been held, with more than 1,000 participants.
People with limited mobility rely on the firsthand barrier-free information uploaded on WheeLog! to give them the push to venture outside. But the app also engages and empowers them through their role in providing up-to-date information for others, which brings joy to many app users. And, through its community engagement activities, WheeLog! has established a platform where various local organizations and all types of professions can come together to collaborate, thus creating a “symbiotic local community.”
Aspiring for a more accessible, inclusive future for wheelchair users, WheeLog advocates for more inclusive thinking in order to shape a society that welcomes all people with disabilities. As people have been more isolated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, WheeLog is working to ensure that wheelchair users are not forgotten. Creating a barrier-free society—both in mindset and in practical terms—must remain a priority.
Watch video on NHK World.
KEYS TO SUCCESS
- WheeLog! has a clear positive mission to “Build a Hopeful World for the Wheelchair-bound,” which, along with its bottom-up community approach, encourages people to participate
- “City strolling events” include a component where people without disabilities can experience using a wheelchair, giving them a better understanding of the challenges and barriers that wheelchair users might face
- Their activities are not just limited to one region but are designed and developed to be implemented throughout Japan, and eventually worldwide
- WheeLog! utilizes “gamification” to make it fun for users to engage with the application