Monday, June 11, 2012

Mapping for Accessibility with AXS Map at the Woodstock Digital Media Festival


Join Jason DaSilva and Alice Cook of AXSMap.com and help map the accessibility of Woodstock, Saturday, June 23, part of the 2012 Woodstock Digital Media Festival.

In today’s digital world, finding a good restaurant or locating a new store is no problem. Use Google Maps or MapQuest to get directions to an unfamiliar address. Access Yelp on a smartphone for a review of a local restaurant, and then use the phone’s GPS to get there. It’s all easy and almost effortless.

Unless picking the restaurant with the best food, and finding it on smart phone, still means you can’t meet your friends and family there. Filmmaker Jason DaSilva faced that problem. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2005, DaSilva can no longer walk and travels by motorized scooter.

“As I adjusted to my new life, I was surprised to learn that anytime I wanted to get out of the house, there was no way for me to know whether the places I planned to visit were accessible,” DaSilva says. “Today, a set of six steps in the entryway might as well be a six story impenetrable wall.”

Building Tools for People with Disabilities

Jason DaSilva of AXSMap.com
Jason DaSilva
DaSilva created the nonprofit AXS Lab to tell the stories and build tools for people with disabilities through new media, innovation and documentary film. In May, AXS Labs launched AXS Map (pronounced Access Map), a new website and tool that allows people to search and review the accessibility of buildings, shops, restaurants and all kinds of places.

Jason DaSilva and AXS Lab executive director, Alice Cook, will be in Woodstock on June 23 to present their new website as part of the Woodstock Digital Media Festival. Now in its second year, the Festival explores the latest in digital art and innovation through exhibits, panel discussions and a Saturday evening gala presentation.

Digital “explorations,” such as “Mapping the Accessibility of Woodstock with Jason DaSilva and Alice Cook,” are also a part of the Festival, and offer attendees the chance to learn about and use new digital tools from the people who have made them. The mapping exploration begins on the Woodstock Green at 12:30 pm on Saturday, June 23. Like most of the Festival’s activities, the exploration is free and the public are encouraged to attend. A complete schedule of the Festival is available at WoodstockDigital.com.

AXS Map is a web-based application that can be accessed through the web browser of a smart phone or other device. Mobile apps for the Android and iPhone also are in the works. Users join the AXS Map community at www.axsmap.com, and once registered in the application, can rate on a five-star scale the wheelchair accessibility, spaciousness and noise levels of local businesses and buildings. Numerous videos on the site explain and demonstrate AXS Map’s rating system.

Helping People Find Places That Accommodate Their Needs

AXS Map’s goal is to offer people with mobility disabilities the ability to share knowledge of their local communities, and to help people find the places that accommodate their needs. “AXS Map gives me and others the ability to know exactly which locations are accessible,” DaSilva says, “And the freedom to travel to new communities confident that we will be able to find places and bathrooms that are accessible.”  
Alice Cook Executive Director of AXS Labs
Alice Cook

AXS also provides communities with a way to begin to gather information that will help them understand what their accessibility looks like, says Alice Cook. “AXS Map is about sharing the user experience,” she says.

Recent discussions in Woodstock regarding the accessibility of the town’s businesses have raised interest in the AXS Map exploration at the Festival. Representative Alison Clarkson is part of a group trying to address accessibility in Woodstock, which is complicated by the desire to make Woodstock more accessible while maintaining the town’s historic integrity. Clarkson wants to make sure that people are aware that Woodstock is actively working to address these issues, and says the group plans to meet with DaSilva and Cook when they are in Woodstock for the Festival.

As a part of its recent website launch, AXS Map held a “bicoastal mapping event” in which volunteers mapped a neighborhood in New York and in San Francisco on the same day. “The best part is that the tool is powered by individuals and communities,” DaSilva says. “The more reviews that are shared, the better it gets.”


3 comments:

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