Some of us need a little help getting around. Regular life can be difficult when you have trouble with stairs or steep slopes, or even something as simple as a curb. Things that most of us take for granted, like grabbing a bus and heading downtown, are stressful for a person with mobility issues because we never know if we'll get to a place that stops us in our tracks. And that's OK — nobody in a wheelchair or behind a walker wants you to feel bad or feel sorry for us, we just want to be able to access the same things you do.
That means it's important to be able to find an elevator or a restroom with accessibility features or to make sure the bus that's coming in six minutes has a lift. Thankfully there are some apps that can help out. We've found the best apps that can help anyone with limited mobility do those normal things that normal people do.
Uber has a strict policy of Equal Access For All that makes sure you'll always be able to connect with a driver that can help you get from where you are to wherever you need to go. Even the Uber app meets WCAG 2.0 guidelines for accessibility features and it's audited regularly to maintain compliance.
Uber also goes the extra mile with their UberWAV pilot program. Currently available in Toronto, Austin, Chicago, and London, with more cities to come soon, UberWAV provides service for folks who use motorized chairs by providing vehicles with lifts and harnesses installed. And the company doesn't charge extra for this service; an UberWAV ride in the pilot cities is the same price as a standard UberBlack ride. With Uber, you'll never have to deal with a cab driver who won't assist you with your chair again.
AXSmap is a web app designed to let you know how accessible any building or establishment inside a building is. It's a crowd-sourced app that users can update in real time so you'll be aware of things like sidewalk closures or broken elevators before you get to a barrier or sign. That also means it gets better the more people use it, so this is one everybody can use to help out.
As a web app, you can use it from any device with a web browser and an internet connection. There's also a dedicated Android app that opens the web front-end for people who would rather have it in app form. While there are plenty of places that haven't been rated, I found the information to be spot on in downtown Washington, DC and I'll keep using AXSmap to help provide information about every place I visit. You should, too!
Wheelmap.org is an online community dedicated to letting you know if the places you want to go are accessible. Like our previous entry, it's a map-based web app that uses crowd-sourced data, but Wheelmap lets you know at a glance if things are accessible with a simple traffic light system: green is great, yellow is not so great, and red isn't great at all.
A great feature of Wheelmap.org's Android app is Tango integration. If you have a Tango device like the ASUS ZenFone AR, you can measure things like door width, step height, slope of ramps and clear floor space in restrooms. There's no word if the developers will transition to ARCore (which replaces Tango) but we certainly hope so!
Virtual Reality apps
There are some places that you just can't visit because of mobility issues. The world of VR lets you experience mountain climbing or the Great Pyramids from the comfort of home and are easy to use. While standalone VR headsets like the Oculus Rift or HTC VIVE are great, your Android phone can also act as a VR portal with the right headset. Samsung's Gear VR and Google Daydream are a great way to virtually get away from it all and relax in a rain forest or to explore the wonders of the Arctic without worrying about getting stuck.
While they aren't a substitution for the real thing, VR apps and movies are immersive and enjoyable. And maybe diving with Great White Sharks is best done through a VR YouTube video.
Sometimes it's tough to recommend an app that only has one simple function, but this isn't one of those times because WheelMate can be a lifesaver if you have trouble getting around.
The one simple thing it does is something everyone with limited mobility will need eventually — it shows you where accessible restrooms are near you. All you need to do is make sure you have location services enabled and open the app. You'll then see a map with accessible restrooms that are open to the public (if a restroom is for customers only it's not shown) marked in their location so you know where you need to go when you need to go.
WheelMate is both crowdsourced and curated and I've found it to be indispensable — yes, it's an app I never leave home without.
Google Maps is a great service that is used by almost everyone. It also has a great, but mostly hidden, accessibility feature that lets you know if your transit options are Wheelchair accessible or not.
Google's Local Guides program allows participants to mark transit routes that are accessible and you'll find the option to check your route in the extras menu when you're telling Maps where you need to go. This hasn't rolled out everywhere just yet, but it will be a nationwide addition in the near future.
Google Maps is probably already installed on your phone, but if not you can grab it at the link below.
Your accessibility options
What do you use to make your world more accessible? Let us know in the comments below!
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