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March 10, 2016 / carlispina

Find (and Share!) Accessible Travel Options With Access Earth

AccessEarthLogoWhether you are just planning your day or you are planning a vacation in a foreign country, finding information about the accessibility of hotels, restaurants, stores, and other public venues can be extremely difficult. Though the internet has improved this process slightly, a surprising number of places still don’t offer accessibility information on their websites and those that do aren’t always accurate or detailed in their descriptions. Access Earth is a new  website that aims to solve this problem by crowdsourcing this information.

This site collects information about locations around the world and makes it easy to sort through types of venues (including categories for hotels, restaurants/bars, shopping, and local sights) and types of accommodations needed (such as step-free access, elevators, or accessible restrooms). Alternatively, you can also search for specific places by name. On the map, each location has either a green icon, indicating that it is accessible, or a a red icon, indicating that there are accessibility issues. For each individual venue, users can add basic information, such as contact details, as well as answers to four specific accessibility questions: is the entrance step free, are the doors wide enough to allow wheelchair access, are all public areas at ground level, and are there accessible bathrooms available. Users can also add reviews for each venue to provide more anecdotal information.

The site is built using OpenStreetMap and Mapbox, which provides a nice, easy to use map interface that allows users to zoom in to find all of the accessible venues in a specific location, but this is not the only way to navigate through the site’s information. You can also click on categories in the left menu (seen in the image below) to narrow your results to specific types of venues. At this point, the site’s contents are weighted heavily towards Europe and the UK, but I hope that this will change over time as more non-European users begin contributing to the site.

Access Earth Screenshot

Overall, I like Access Earth with two reservations. Though the site is nice and easy to use, it is currently focused on access for those with mobility disabilities, a bit to the exclusion of other types of disabilities, though this may be a function of being in beta and having a limited user base at this point. Also, one other issue I will note is that the site itself has some accessibility issues, which may make it difficult to navigate for those who use certain assistive technologies, but I am hoping this will also improve as the site continues to develop and eventually moves out of beta. If you are interested in finding or sharing information about location accessibility, Access Earth is a nice new option. In particular, I would encourage librarians to consider adding information about their library to the site!

Interested in learning about other accessibility tools? Sign up for my Library Juice Academy course: Introduction to Accessibility and Universal Design.

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