Accessibility Information Map for the Mobility Disadvantaged Persons

Problem of accessibility of the mobility disadvantaged persons in the urban space

Cities comprise artificial or non-artificial combinations of countless roads (lines), facilities (points), and spaces (planes). Living in such cities, we find the most efficient and fastest way to reach a facility or space. When driving a car, we use a navigation device that informs us of the optimal or shortest route considering real-time traffic volume information and road types (narrow and curved or wide and straight roads). When walking, we can use pedestrian guides on commercial maps such as NAVER Map, Kakao Map and Google Map. When using pedestrian guides, people often prefer the fastest and shortest route, even if there are steep slopes or height differences caused by stairs. If there is no difficulty in walking, slopes and surface materials that may cause inconvenience are obstacles that can be overcome.

If the urban space is safe and convenient for everyone, there would be no problem with taking the fastest and most efficient route. The problem is that our cities are not safe. People of different social classes and physical abilities live in cities. Some parts that are inconvenient but usable by some people (paths that have height differences but can be passed if one is careful, paths that are narrow but can be passed, paths that have a steep slope and need to be passed slowly, etc.) are parts that are not usable by persons on wheelchairs and those with strollers (paths where wheels cannot pass because of height differences, paths where wheelchairs and strollers must enter dangerous roads due to obstacles like street-lined trees, paths where severe slopes cause difficulty walking and risk of overturning, etc.). For this reason, guidance for the mobility disadvantaged persons must inform the user of paths that are available to the mobility impaired. Furthermore, paths are not the only problem. In our daily lives, we engage in educational, business, and cultural activities while visiting numerous facilities and places. Unlike persons without disabilities, the availability of convenience facilities (entrance gates, parking lots, vertical movement facilities, sanitation facilities, other convenience facilities) is important for the mobility disadvantaged persons in visiting and using facilities and places for everyday life. For example, persons with disabilities on wheelchairs who wish to enjoy cultural life at an art museum or performance hall may not be able to enter if it is difficult to access the facility (stairs at the entrance, doors that are difficult to pass, etc.) and basic convenience facilities are not available (restrooms, etc.). If information about facilities usable by the mobility disadvantaged persons is provided in advance, inconvenience will be lessened and they will be able to only visit available facilities.

Problems with the lack of spatial information for the mobility disadvantaged persons

The Korean government and the SMG promoted policies related to spatial information over the last 20 years, expanding the base for people to use spatial information. About 72% (28.96 million persons) of all Internet users in Korea used spatial information for pathfinding (maps, etc.) as of January 2020. Unlike such quantitative achievements, achievements regarding the vulnerable groups of people who have difficulty utilizing spatial information, such as the mobility disadvantaged persons, are inadequate. There are movements by the central government, local governments, and public institutions to build information for the persons with disabilities, such as the braille map of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, but such efforts are still insufficient in terms of utilization. In the private sector, the importance of social value creation has lately been emphasized with new business strategies, leading to the production and provision of spatial information for the mobility disadvantaged persons. However, they fail to show continuous management. 

Collection of spatial information related to access of public facilities by the mobility disadvantaged persons

The SMG and Seoul Universal Design Center considered the methods of allowing people of diverse backgrounds living in the city, particularly the mobility disadvantaged persons, to use space efficiently. Since it is unrealistic to improve all paths and spaces in Seoul to become available to everyone, the SMG first investigated the current status and collected accessibility information. By providing accessibility information of facilities and pedestrian passage information to the mobility disadvantaged persons, the SMG attempted to help facility users use the city more efficiently by enabling them to perceive the usability of facilities before going out.

Based on the awareness of this problem, the Design Policy Division of the SMG (Seoul Universal Design Center), spatial information officer, and Seoul Digital Foundation gathered to promote a project by unifying the survey criteria, survey methods, and information formats.


Direction of project to build accessibility information for the mobility disadvantaged persons

The Design Policy Division of the SMG investigated accessibility information for the mobility disadvantaged persons by focusing on facilities managed by the SMG (facilities owned by the SMG). Among all facilities in possession, information on 1,055 facilities available to citizens were investigated regarding available pedestrian walkway and convenience facilities.


Target place of accessibility information investigation

For pedestrian walkways, the width, slope, material, and height differences were investigated. The mobility of wheelchair and stroller users was investigated for each stage. The investigated data were saved in real time on the public map of the SMG, and the information was refined by going through inspection of the administrator.


Example of pedestrian passage accessibility information investigation

Buildings were divided into entrances, internal facilities, and sanitation facilities to investigate height differences at entrances, width, activity space, and type. For internal facilities, the existence of vertical movement facilities and other convenience facilities (nursing room, high-speed wheelchair charger, smartphone charger, etc.) was investigated. For sanitation facilities, the type, accessibility, and availability of restrooms for the persons with disabilities were investigated.


Example of building accessibility information investigation

Production of accessibility information map for the mobility disadvantaged persons

An accessibility information map for the mobility disadvantaged persons was made for 174 public facilities with a strong public nature, which are frequently used by citizens and judged that additional indoor information for the mobility disadvantaged persons should be provided. A “standard guideline for visualization of accessibility information” was developed and used to make the information map, considering the lack of a standardized guideline regarding the method of indicating information in the smartphone environment. The standard guideline contains detailed indicating instructions considering the usability and readability on smartphones, the procedure and display method of making the information map, and the use of pictograms. The information map was made based on the shape and structure of the actual space while matching the entry direction of visitors, allowing everyone to easily understand the map.


Standard guideline to make accessibility information map for the mobility disadvantaged persons

Service of accessibility information map for the mobility impaired

The accessibility information map service for the mobility disadvantaged persons was preferentially provided for the 174 target facilities. The map became available on the Smart Seoul Map (SMAP, using the theme of accessibility information map for the mobility disadvantaged persons. The information was made available for private use. The SMG plans to conduct continuous monitoring with civic organizations to maintain information through periodic updates. Besides the facilities already disclosed, data for other facilities will be progressively made available while considering the facility characteristics. The status survey results will be shared with facility-related departments to continue improving accessibility and maintaining the map.


Example of accessibility information map service for the mobility disadvantaged persons

Limitations of project and directions for improvement

This project was promoted to collect and process spatial information (accessibility of public facilities, availability, information about other convenience facilities, etc.) necessary for the mobility disadvantaged persons and realize the value of “human-centered Seoul where everyone is respected” by building and providing information on public maps. Spatial information projects related to the mobility disadvantaged persons that used to be sporadically carried out by the private sector were supplemented to standardize the investigation criteria, process, and information construction method (map creation, etc.). However, this project has limits in constructing and providing information that considers all users (persons with visual disabilities, foreign nationals, etc.) due to physical limitations (number of investigators, budget, etc.). Such limits should be supplemented by improving the content and provision method (method available to the persons with visual disabilities, etc.) of information.

This project is the starting point for our journey to make Seoul a convenient city for everyone. Continued efforts are needed to improve spaces and facilities that are currently difficult to use but can be made available based on the investigated data. The provided facility information must be gradually expanded to facilities owned by the central government as well as private sector. The SMG and Seoul Universal Design Center will make consistent efforts to create urban spaces accessible to everyone.

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