WheeLog! enables wheelchair users, people with reduced mobility, and healthy people to access and share accessibility information
Pitch us on your solution
A trip to an unknown place for a wheelchair user requires extensive research, careful planning, and courage. At the root of these needs is the need for information on issues such as the accessibility of restaurants, hotels, bathrooms, routes, roads, and so on. Even if that type of information is available, it is often scattered across different websites and sources.
WheeLog! solves this problem by creating an interactive map that allows wheelchair users to clearly see the accessibility of public spaces and routes they can take. Users can share their experiences and create virtual guideposts to enable other users to prepare for their visit in advance. WheeLog! hopes to create a world where wheelchair users can go outside whenever they want. The app has gathered over 5500km of accessible routes taken by wheelchair users (TrackLog), over 18000 posts about accessible and inaccessible places (Spots) accompanied by more than 52000 photos.
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What is the problem you are solving?
One in 60 people in Japan uses a wheelchair. Being a wheelchair user herself, the creator of this application is familiar with the barriers they are faced with. The barriers include communication, physical, systemic, and attitudinal barrier. Communication barriers prevent people with reduced mobility to go outside and participate in society owing to a lack of accessibility information. This forces them to either stay indoors or face the physical barriers in the infrastructure by themselves. Not having platforms such as WheeLog! also deepens the systemic barriers because it would be harder for wheelchair users to have their voices and concerns heard and dealt with by the government. Finally, all these problems are further exacerbated by the attitudinal barrier between healthy people and wheelchair users because the former are rarely aware of the issues experienced by the latter. WheeLog! sets out to use technology to break down these barriers by gathering and sharing accessibility information, by giving power and voice to people with reduced mobility, and by holding events to familiarize healthy people with the struggles of wheelchair users.
Who are you serving?
Even though the application is mainly designed to help wheelchair users, it is also aimed at people with reduced mobility (such as cane users) and parents with strollers because all these groups of people could benefit from readily available comprehensive accessibility information. We are intimately aware of this problem because the designer of the app is a wheelchair user herself. However, we also use multiple channels to interact with our users and learn about their problems and suggestions. The app offers a platform through which users can explain the issues they face. In addition, we organize meetups for our users from Japan several times a month, and that allows us and them to match the information WheeLog! offers to their accessibility issues. Furthermore, our users often use the app to organize meetups by themselves and create local groups. These types of events not only help deepen the way the app helps our users, but also allows them to socialize and create networks of support and friendship.
What is your solution?
WheeLog! has four general functions.
First, WheeLog! is the only crowdsourcing map in the world where the routes taken by a wheelchair user can be visualized (TrackLog). This is accomplished through the GPS function of smartphones and can be used wherever Google Maps are available. In addition, it is very effective in planning routes beforehand by using the barrier information posted on the map. There are many tools for gathering barrier-free information, but “WheeLog!” is the only application in the world that can acquire and display the TrackLog of a wheelchair user on a map.
Second, WheeLog! can share users’ experiences and wheelchair accessibility information related to restaurants, hotels, stations, bathrooms, and other public facilities, including street steps and ramps. On top of that, WheeLog! offers information about physical barriers. Additionally, it collects data not only from individual users, but also from local government bodies. So far, we have posted official government information (Open Data) on public bathrooms and elevators in buildings in Tokyo, and we are planning to include Open Data about other municipalities, as well.
Third, users can interact with one another by sharing more personalized information about unsafe places, fun places, events in daily life, and more by using “Chirps.”
Fourth, if users want to get information about specific locations and areas, they can use the ''Request'' function. Other users who have information about that particular place can respond to the request and post relevant information.
By utilizing these functions, users can communicate with each other and share information around the world, which helps solve the accessibility problem both locally and globally. Having an app based on Google Maps allows our users to map accessibility anywhere in the world and we are proud to have a wealth of information from several countries such as Taiwan, USA, China, etc. In addition, people who are not wheelchair users usually do not know how important accessible roads, paths, entrances, and public restrooms are. Using WheeLog!, we can help such people become more aware of the accessibility issues and barriers around them. In Japan, even though there are laws that regulate the relationship between wheelchair users and society, several problems related to communication and cooperation still exist. Therefore, we frequently organize university and high school lectures on accessibility along with events where the healthy people are asked to use wheelchairs for a day, which can help raise more awareness.
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Where is your solution team headquartered?Tōkyō, 東京都 日本
Our solution's stage of development:
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New application of an existing technology
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
WheeLog! is the only crowdsourcing application in the world which allows users to share and access wheelchair-accessible paths displayed on a map (TrackLog) and it is the only platform which can help create sustainable settlements by establishing a connection between wheelchair users, local authorities and healthy people. We organize events with local governments, schools and residents to collect barrier-free, accessible information about the local public transport stations and streets. During the events, people who are not wheelchair users can understand how important accessible roads, paths, entrances, and public restrooms are for wheelchair users. We believe that WheeLog! can help such people become more aware of accessibility issues and barriers around them. Ahead of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, the Japanese government is promoting the idea of “barrier-free minds”, which means establishing understanding and support among people with different physical characteristics and points of view. We think it is important to continuously improve road safety and sustainable accessible transport systems. This sustainable system contributes to the barrier-free masterplan of the local government and promotes an idea of barrier-free settlements to students and residents.
Describe the core technology that your solution utilizes.
WheeLog! has four general functions - collecting and displaying the GPS TrackLog, sharing users’ experience through posts (Spots), allowing users to communicate among themselves and enabling them to request specific information. As for the GPS TrackLog, the app uses the GPS function of smartphones and can be used wherever Google Maps are available. Even if wheelchair users had obtained barrier-free information about the place they wanted to go to, it would have been pointless unless we could solve the problem of how to go there. Visualizing the road that can be taken in a wheelchair is very effective in planning routes beforehand by using the barrier information posted on the map. There are many tools for gathering barrier-free information, but “WheeLog!” is the only application in the world that can acquire and display the TrackLog of a wheelchair user on a map. This information is important for the transportation industry in its attempt to provide more support for wheelchair users and their mobility. This technology could also potentially be applied in the field of disaster prevention. Other functions include the possibility for users to share information on unsafe or fun places by using “Chirps”. Users can also utilize the “Request” button to ask other users for information on specific locations.
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Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?
Integral elements of sustainable settlements are their accessibility and inclusiveness. WheeLog! sets out to promote social inclusion by providing wheelchair users and their families with information which is vital for their physical and social mobility. A consequence of mobility is economic growth, given that a significant segment of the population can use WheeLog! to engage in activities which generate revenue (tourism, restaurant visits, shopping, transport, etc). This is a way to counteract the so-called “5-1=0” effect, which implies that a family or a group of friends with one wheelchair user will avoid places which are not accessible and therefore limit their economic contribution to the society, among other things. Another consequence of physical mobility is psychological well-being, further aided by WheeLog!'s communicative functions. Additionally, WheeLog! serves as a bridge between wheelchair users and the authorities, since our intimate knowledge of our users' problems enables us to use our presence and collaboration with national and local governments to advocate for them and help bring about improvements in urban infrastructure.
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In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?
As of June 2019, our application has 7,184 users, 2,203 of which are wheelchair users. Our goal for the following year is to double the number of users (up to 15000), 5000 of which would be wheelchair users. Over the next five years, we are hoping to achieve the number of 150,000 users, 50,000 of which would be wheelchair users.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
The 2020 Tokyo Paralympics will see many wheelchair users visiting Tokyo. We hope to introduce the app to them and, in addition to enabling them to have a comfortable stay in Japan, motivate them to continue using WheeLog! in their countries. WheeLog! is adaptable and replicable due to its reliance on Google Maps. It is estimated there are more than 70 million wheelchair users worldwide and all it takes for them to gain access to WheeLog! is to know about it. All the technical prerequisites are already met. Therefore, we are planning on using the Paralympics and other potential international events (2019 Rugby World Cup, 2025 EXPO in Osaka, etc.) to advertise the app and reach out to an ever-growing number of users. In addition to that, we are planning on expanding our website which would enable more wheelchair users to not only access but also share information about accessibility.
What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?
A financial barrier that we have is the fact that we are a non-profit organization and we don’t have a stable business model for our revenue source yet. Therefore, our activities are all volunteer-based and we have no full-time staff apart from the creators of the app. We are hoping to build a stable income business model this year, obtain a budget and secure staff resources in order to develop WheeLog! over the next five years.
A technical barrier that we are facing concerns the ease with which data is posted on the app. At the moment, our users only receive a tutorial when they start using the app, but don’t have any additional help when actually posting information.We would like to provide our users with more assistance and make the posting process easier and more straightforward.
Another technical barrier is the fact that not all people own or know how to use a smartphone, so they have no means to share accessibility information and communicate with other users. We do have a website which can be accessed using a computer, but it doesn’t allow users to post information, but rather just read.
How are you planning to overcome these barriers?
As for the financial barrier, the first step we need to take is working on publicizing WheeLog! and building its reputation with the aim of attracting investments. Next, the wealth of accessibility information we have gathered over the years can be used to make business deals with companies which can benefit from obtaining such information, such as transportation companies, tourism-based companies, local and national governments, etc.
Concerning the technical issue surrounding posting difficulties, we are planning on focusing a great deal of our potential funds on reprogramming the application and adding an “assistant” function that would guide users through the process of posting.
When it comes to the website issues, we are also planning on investing a part of the funds we might potentially receive in updating the website and making it possible for its visitors to not only view, but also post accessibility information and actively communicate with other app users.
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For how many years have you been working on your solution?
For 2 years.
Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?
The chairperson and the creator of WheeLog!, Yuriko Oda, has been a wheelchair user since 2006 as a result of her disease. In 2008, she established a patient association for people suffering from her disease. Additionally, she has been working with wheelchair users with different medical and social backgrounds. In 2018, she was selected as a member of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Welfare and Town Planning Committee. Therefore, our organization conducts its affairs from the perspective of wheelchair users and relies on our experience in the administrative aspects of accessibility. Our first-hand experience and direct communication with wheelchair users sets us apart from other private or governmental services because we tailor and adapt our approach to the real needs and problems of these people and then strive to solve these problems on a larger scale.
With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?
・Events and demonstration experiments with the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, local governments of Machida City, Okinawa, Sasebo, Shimane University, Teikyo Heisei University, Isesakikoyo Height School, Mawashi High School, Tenryu High School, Ory Laboratory Co., Ltd., IT Support Okinawa, Barrier-Free Network Council, People Design Institute, DET Gunma, Kensei Rehabilitation Association, Futyu Rehabilitation Association, Tokushima Association of Occupational Therapists, Machida Handycab Association, NAO-no-Tamago.
・Utilizing open data of Machida City (Tokyo Metropolitan Area)
・Investigating the usability of a user contribution-type of application with the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, NTT Data Institute of Management Consulting, INC
・Demonstration experiments of Business with All Nippon Airways, 2nd FACTORY Co.,Ltd.
・Application development with nanoconnect,Inc.
What is your business model?
Our business model is to sell our API data to institutions such as local and national governments planning to make barrier-free maps or companies involved in tourism or transport. A significant section of our revenue also comes from donations from individuals and companies. Another source of revenue is sponsorship from companies which use our website to advertise their accessible features.
What is your path to financial sustainability?
We receive around 30,000$ per year through donations from companies and individuals and we expect that amount to double over the next year. In addition to that, we are already sharing our accessible information to private companies for a charge and, by doing this, we are hoping to generate a more sustainable income in the future and reach 60,000$ (double the current amount). Furthermore, we are hoping to generate revenue by selling more advertising space on our website and by creating advertising space on the app.
Why are you applying to Solve?
There are three reasons why we are applying to Solve.
Firstly, we have just over 7,000 users and we don’t have a sufficient amount of accessibility information yet, at least not as much as we would like. Being endorsed by a program organized by a world-renowned institution such as the MIT will drastically increase our presence worldwide and bring us more users and, consequently, more data.
Secondly, we would like to start a cooperation with the MIT. Being a top research institute in the world, it could assist us both from technological and site-operation viewpoints. One of our main goals for the near future is making the application simpler to use and adapting its website version, so any kind of assistance in the field of programing would be invaluable for us. We would greatly appreciate and be honored by this collaboration and it would help us in our final goal, which is to become a world class, well-known and useful barrier-free map application and help people across the world.
Finally, applying to this program entails access to funds which can be used to develop the functions of our application, translate it into other languages, increase the number and scope of our activities and media presence, develop a more user-friendly website, etc.
What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?
With what organizations would you like to partner, and how would you like to partner with them?
The nature of our application is such that we can collaborate with any kind of institutions which can put the information we have collected to use. Our plan is to collaborate with local governments and private organizations and share our accessibility data with them. In addition to that, we would also like to collaborate with smaller businesses and companies such as restaurants, hotels, tourism businesses and help them incorporate our data into their services. Our application can further be used in collaboration with other institutions with the aim of, for example, providing disaster assistance, but we are willing to cooperate with any kind of institution which can provide wheelchair users with more information, freedom of movement and assistance.
If you would like to apply for the GM Prize on Community-Driven Innovation, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.
The main purpose of WheeLog! is to support physical mobility in urban areas, but one of the consequences of physical mobility is also social mobility. Without appropriate accessibility information, wheelchair users are limited to a specific area and the resources this area offers. WheeLog! helps them gain access to a wider physical, economic and educational environment and allow them to access institutions and facilities which would normally be out of reach. Having better access to education, having a wider selection of job opportunities and social connections can help wheelchair users move away from the under-represented minority status and become equal members of society.
If you would like to apply for the Morgridge Family Foundation Community-Driven Innovation Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.
WheeLog! is a user-generated map application which allows users to access and share information about wheelchair accessibility. WheeLog! has four main functions - the innovative and unique TrackLog function allows wheelchair users to track their movement and post it on a map based on Google Maps. In addition to the TrackLog, users can post Spots, or information on specific places, such as elevators, parking lots, toilets, restaurants, barriers, etc. The third function is called Chirps and it allows users to share their personal stories and communicate with other users. Finally, the Request function allows users to request information about places they are interested in. WheeLog! users are not only wheelchair users, but also people with no mobility issues, and the app is also aimed at cane users and parents with strollers. Our activities are not limited to the app only - we also organize gatherings for our users where they can socialize and share experiences. We also organize lectures and awareness-raising events in which healthy people are better familiarized with the issues of mobility barriers.