IIT Delhi and University College London collaborate to create wheelchair-accessible maps of Delhi

The Street Rehab project team is trying to identify how people are currently getting around in Delhi, to find new ways of facilitating rehabilitation and identifying ways to improve infrastructure.

Published: 21st February 2019 07:46 PM  |   Last Updated: 21st February 2019 08:10 PM   |  A+A-


For representational purposes (Express Illustration)


LONDON: A collaborative project between the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi and University College London (UCL) is developing wheelchair-accessible maps of Delhi using innovative sensing platforms.

The Street Rehab project has been designed to gain a clear understanding of user needs, available technology and the accessibility of India's capital, UCL researchers said on Wednesday. "Infrastructure in India can often make pushing a wheelchair or tricycle difficult.

We are trying to identify how people are currently getting around in Delhi, to find new ways of facilitating rehabilitation and identifying ways to improve infrastructure," said Dr Catherine Holloway of the UCL's Interaction Centre and Academic Director of the Global Disability Innovation Hub.

The UCL team has developed low-cost sensors that can identify features of the sidewalk and gauge how the wheelchair or tricycle users propel themselves. The sensors are linked to the user's mobile phone, to make their mobility device part of the Internet of Things (IoT), and to enable users to access the sensor data via an app. They can also add a geo-tagged photo or voice notes to annotate their journey.

For the first stage of the Street Rehab project, the researchers teamed up with local NGOs in India to find wheelchair and tricycle users from across the socio-economic spectrum, who were the study participants and also advised on the development of the project. Anonymous data from the participants' sensors has helped create a map of accessibility in parts of Delhi.

The research team, led by Holloway alongside partners in the UK and India, is now continuing the project to develop a larger database of the wheelchair accessibility of Delhi to identify what needs to be improved and to deliver a service to wheelchair users to aid in their rehabilitation. "Development of assistive technologies for the empowerment of people with disabilities is extremely important. To achieve social and economic inclusion through research and innovation, UCL and IIT-Delhi will have joint activities in design, development and dissemination of assistive technology which sits between economic burden and economic prosperity," said Professor PV Madhusudhan Rao of IIT-Delhi.

The Global Disability Innovation (GDI) Hub seeks to accelerate disability innovation across the globe through co-design, collaboration and innovation, bringing together the world's best academics, disability experts and designers to improve the lives of the world's one billion disabled people.

It was launched by London Mayor Sadiq Khan in September 2016, stemming from the legacy of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, led by founding partners UCL, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Loughborough University London, University of the Arts London, Victoria & Albert Museum, Sadler's Wells, Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, and Leonard Cheshire.

The Street Rehab project is associated with a 10-million pound GDI Hub project funded by the UK's Department for International Development (DFID), called AT2030, that aims to bring life-changing assistive technology, such as wheelchairs and eyeglasses, to all.

The GDI Hub's AT2030 project team is in discussions with colleagues in Delhi to explore opportunities for an innovation hub in India and will be expanding into Nairobi, Kenya, this year.

AT2030 seeks to reach at least three million people, develop new technologies and service delivery models, spark dozens of start-ups and opportunities for investment and innovation to help people living with disabilities.

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