CBM is a partner of the campaign "MapMyDay" with which people around the world are called upon to mark places in their neighborhoods and cities according to their wheelchair accessibility. This campaign encourages everyone with internet access to participate by contributing local information. In this article we interview Raul Krauthausen, one of the brains behind this project.
MapMyDay is a global campaign starting on December 3 that we are carrying out in cooperation with the World Health Organization and other Geneva-based UN agencies such as the ITU, ILO and IBE-UNESCO. We are calling on people around the world to mark places in their neighborhoods and cities according to their wheelchair accessibility on Wheelmap.org. On the one hand, we want as many people as possible to gather accessibility information everywhere, so that people with mobility impairments can plan their daily lives more easily, using that information. On the other hand, we want people to think about the accessibility of the places they go to and to become aware of the barriers that people in wheelchairs, with walking aids and with baby carriages face every day.
Taking part in “MapMyDay” is really very simple: using the Wheelmap.org website or one of the free smartphone apps everybody can mark the wheelchair accessibility of their local baker, supermarket or dentist office with a couple of clicks. No registration is required and the criteria for marking a place are simple. Are there no steps at the entrance to your favorite café? Then click on the green marker at the location of the café on Wheelmap.org. That´s all. And if your dentist`s office is at the top of a flight of stairs and there is no elevator in the building, then the red marker is the one to click. We hope that people everywhere, people with and without disabilities, alone and in teams, with friends or with strangers will look at the public places in their communities from a different angle and share their new insights on Wheelmap.org
The campaign’s website at www.mapmyday.org has more information on the event and many easy ideas on how to get involved. And the “MapMyDay” Facebook page and Twitter account are keeping everybody up to date on the latest campaign news.
Can you briefly describe yourself and your organisation?
Raul Krauthausen: Ten years ago some friends and I had an idea: we wanted to start something new together and we wanted to do something that would be useful for other people. Because we are all creative minds and enjoy finding pragmatic solutions to problems, we decided to found a nonprofit organisation that would dedicate itself to finding solutions for problems in our society. Over the years, the work of our organisation, which we named Sozialhelden (Social Heroes), has turned its focus more and more towards topics of accessibility and the inclusion of people with disabilities. Our most successful project is Wheelmap.org, an online map in 22 languages for finding and marking wheelchair accessible placeswhich everyone around the world can contribute information to. The map just had its 600,000th location added, further establishing it as the world’s largest database on wheelchair accessible places. Another project of ours is Leidmedien.de (so far only available in German), which aims to make the portrayal of people with disabilities in media, a portrayal which is often rife with stereotypes, more balanced. Leidmedien.de also offers a platform for a wide range of voices and opinions of people with disabilities to be heard. All of our projects advocate for a fair and inclusive society by calling attention to a problem and offering pragmatic solutions that everybody can be part of.
An example of my current advocacy work with the German government involves a German law which regulates the financial consequences for people with disabilities who need a personal assistant in their daily lives. The law now stipulates that a person who receives state funded personal assistance may only keep 800 Euro of his or her monthly salary and may not have more than 2,600 Euros in total savings. This makes it impossible for a large group of working persons with disabilities in Germany to uphold an adequate standard of living or to save money for their retirement. I am working on this issue with many other activists in Germany and we have already succeeded in gathering more than 280,000 signatures on a petition calling for a new, fair law that no longer discriminates against people with disabilities. Using a wide variety of channels such as social media, print, radio and television media, political lobbying and a Change.org petition we have been successful in bringing this issue to the attention of a broad public that otherwise would never have been aware of this unfair law.
We are also expanding our work towards a more international outlook as Wheelmap.org becomes more and more known outside of Germany and our contacts with international organisations and decision makers increase.
Why is it important to make cities inclusive and accessible for all, and how can we do it?
It is not only important that our communities are made inclusive and accessible for all, it is essential. If our cities are not made for everybody, a large portion of the population is excluded from the lives of our communities. That is not only unfair to the individuals who are excluded, but it is unfair to society as a whole. Businesses miss out on potential customers, employers on talented employees and we all miss out if the people in our lives who happen to be impaired in their mobility cannot be part of our daily lives in a normal way. The numbers of people with mobility impairments is only increasing as our populations grow older. People are staying active longer, they want to keep travelling, working, volunteering and taking part in cultural life. We cannot afford to exclude millions of people worldwide from our communities. Never mind the many international, national and local legal obligations our governments have entered into to ensure the equal rights of all their citizens.
Some changes to improve accessibility are very inexpensive and simple. Take mobile ramps for instance. In Germany, because of the way buildings were built in the past, a large proportion of entrances to public places are inaccessible to wheelchair users only because they have one or two steps at the entrance. These barriers can easily be overcome with a small mobile ramp that is inexpensive and involves no construction and no bureaucratic hurdles. Longer term, more sustainable solutions involve architects being trained in universal design so that they instinctively include accessibility in their designs, public transportation providers replacing old vehicle with new, accessible ones, laws that stipulate that new buildings and renovations must take accessibility for all into account, enforcing those laws and directly involving people with disabilities in all stages of city planning. And of course, making accessibility information easily available with tools such as Wheelmap.org, but also through more mainstream services such as Google Maps or TripAdvisor.