Yuriko Oda was diagnosed with distal myopathy at the age of 22, and became a wheelchair user at 26. Having faced with various challenges as a wheelchair user, she started a patient network, PADM (Patients Association for Distal Myopathies). She also started a YouTube channel, "Wheelchair Walker," through which she inspires people to travel the world despite their disabilities and provides practical advice and accessibility information about specific locations. In 2017, Yuriko launched WheeLog!, a user-generated mobile application to map wheelchair accessibility. Since then, Wheelog! has increased its user base, and won many social entrepreneurial awards including Google Impact Challenge, World Summit Award, Dubai 2020 Expo Impact Grant, and MIT SOLVE Challenge. She has given numerous inspiring talks at schools, universities, governments, nonprofits, and corporations. She lives in Japan with her husband and son.
One-line project summary:
WheeLog! is a crowd-sourcing map application which collects and shares accessibility information.
Present your project.
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. Because of this problem, there are so many wheelchair users all over the world who can’t go outside or wherever they want.
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.
Submit a video.
What specific problem are you solving?
One in 60 people (2 million) uses a wheelchair in Japan. If one in 100 people is wheelchair user in the world, there are 70 million wheelchair users. If we include their family and friends who are going out and traveling with them, the estimate total number is 70 million * 10 = 700 million people.
Yuriko Oda, the founder of Wheelog!, became aware of various challenges that wheelchair users face as a user herself. Such barriers include information, physical, societal structural, and cultural ones. Of these, WheeLog! mainly solves the barrier issues in information and social structure. Lack of accessibility information prevents people with reduced mobility to go outside and participate in the society. This forces them to either stay indoors and struggle with the barriers on the streets. There are few places for wheelchair users to voice their challenges to governments and other stakeholders. This mobility issue is almost invisible for "healthy" people since there are no educational opportunities and societal interaction to learn about the issue. There are hundreds of millions of people using wheelchairs in the world, and even more with other mobility challenges. There is an opportunity here to create a more diverse and inclusive society.
What is your project?
WheeLog! is a crowd-sourcing map application which collects and shares accessibility information. The app has four main features.
First, WheeLog! is the only crowd-sourcing map in the world that tracks the actual routes taken by wheelchair users. This function, called TrackLog, visualizes which paths are accessible for wheelchair users.
Second, users can share their experiences and accessibility information concerning public and commercial facilities on the app througu the "Spots" function
Third, users can interact with each other by sharing more personalized information about places, events and themselves by using “Chirps” function.
Lastly, if users want to get information about specific locations and areas, they can use the "Request" button. Other users who have information about that particular place can respond to the requests and post relevant information.
Through these functions, users can communicate and share information around the world, which helps solve the accessibility problems locally and globally. Having an app run on Google Map allows our users to map accessibility anywhere in the world.
In addition, using WheeLog!, we can help people without disabilities become more aware of the accessibility issues and barriers around them. Therefore, we frequently organize university and high school lectures on accessibility along with events.
Who does your project serve, and in what ways is the project impacting their lives?
WheeLog! is chiefly designed to help wheelchair users and their families go outside without difficulty, but it can also be useful for parents with strollers or other people with mobility issues. When a person becomes a wheelchair user for the first time, their life entirely changes. Any prospect of going outside and participating in outdoor activities, ranging from a simple restaurant meal to traveling abroad, is riddled with fear and anxiety. Our application gives them all relevant information, but also motivates them and shows them there are places they can go to, despite the fact they are in a wheelchair and that the world is still out their for them. That way, people can feel more confident and comfortable, so they can participate in society as equal members. We are personally aware of all these hardships because the creator and CEO of WheeLog! is a wheelchair user herself, but we are also in constant contact with our users. We organize meetings and events on and offline in which we directly communicate with people with mobility issues and continuously try to gauge our services to their needs.
Which dimension of The Elevate Prize does your project most closely address?Elevating opportunities for all people, especially those who are traditionally left behind
Explain how your project relates to The Elevate Prize and your selected dimension.
People feel a sense of self-affirmation and joy of life by staying connected to the society. However, it is a common concern for people with disabilities that personal fulfillment is difficult to pursue in education, work, marriage and entertainment.
For instance, many wheelchair users experience difficulties in education and work or just in going outside, so our information and support serves to bridge that gap.
WheeLog! believes wheelchair users should never give up living a good, productive life. We work hard on creating a world where anybody is free to go wherever they wish and pursue social involvement.
How did you come up with your project?
WheeLog was established as a general incorporated association in 2018. Yuriko Oda is the Representative Director.
She has been in a wheelchair since 2006 because of her muscle disease. She had a son in 2006. For 3 years, she was disappointed because she couldn’t go to the beach with her son because she was in a wheelchair. But one day, she found an accessible beach on a website, so she could have a wonderful time with her family. She then realized information could change wheelchair users’ lives.
Then she decided to start a YouTube channel called "Wheelchair Walker". There are over 200 videos uploaded on the channel. The videos show how to get on airplanes, how to find hotels, restaurants, sightseeing spots and beaches abroad. But soon after she started Wheelchair Walker, she noticed that her information was insufficient since it only covered a limited area. If people who living in an area had a lot of information and if I they gathered it on one platform and shared it with everyone, wheelchair users could solve their problem.
She submitted this idea to the Google Impact Challenge Japan in 2015 and got the Grand prize. She established WheeLog! in 2018.
Why are you passionate about your project?
Yuriko Oda, the chairperson of WheeLog!, was diagnosed with Distal Myopathy and she became a wheelchair user in 2006. For the first year and a half, she could barely go outside at all. However, the experience of finding an accessible beach and going there with her son made her realize that the information on accessibility can change the lives of wheelchair users.
Moreover, as she has been the chairperson of a Patients Association founded in 2008, she could meet many other people in wheelchairs who could not go out, even if they wanted to.
In this way, based on her own experience and the presence of people around her with similar problems, she recognizes the need to create a world in which no one can give up, even though they are in a wheelchair, and she takes action to change the society.
Since 2018, she has been a member of a Council dealing with barrier-free city planning in Tokyo, and she was a member of the Committee on Universal Tourism in 2019, all of which has allowed her to translate her experience and motivation into real action.
Why are you well-positioned to deliver this project?
Yuriko Oda, the chairperson of WheeLog!, understands the difficulties that wheelchair users go through everyday as she is, herself, a wheelchair user, too.
She is a Distal Myopathy patient and she founded the Distal Myopathy Patients Association in 2008. Through the activities of the association, she has been able to build her network with organizations and individuals involved in humanitarian activities, researchers and entrepreneurs working on solving social issues through technology, government, politicians, media and so forth.
In addition, she started her YouTube channel called “Kurumaisu Walker” or "Wheelchair Walker" in 2014. Since then, she has uploaded more than 200 videos which offer information on accessibility for people with disabilities and they have achieved over 6.8 million views. They are available not only in Japanese but also in English and they have viewers from more than 50 countries and regions-
In summary, as a wheelchair user herself, our chairperson started up the project to make the Japanese society more wheelchair-friendly and has actually managed to improve it with the help of supporters.
We believe that WheeLog! is well-positioned to deliver its service since our project has been achieving mainstream recognition owing to media media support and our representatives' communication skills.
Provide an example of your ability to overcome adversity.
Yuriko Oda, the chairperson of WheeLog!, became a wheelchair user at the age of 26. On top of other physical and mental difficulties, she was faced with the prospect of not being able to go outside with her family due to a lack of information on wheelchair accessibility of public places. That inspired her to start several programs and projects, including WheeLog!, an application that collects and shares information people like Yuriko need.
Thanks to the $450,000 obtained from the Google Impact Challenge, she was able to develop the app. However, WheeLog! soon ran out of money, despite having an increasing number of users. At that point, she hit a wall and had to figure out a way of making money for maintaining the app.
Then she started entering awards competitions in Japan and abroad, while also collecting donation from individuals and companies.
As a result, she won first prize at the World Summit Award 2019, a $100,000 prize at the sponsorship program of Expo 2020 Dubai and $60,000 at Solve MIT.
That allowed the app to improve and become available in 10 languages.
In Japan, she has succeeded to develop WheeLog!'s business model by starting to conduct accessibility checks.
Describe a past experience that demonstrates your leadership ability.
She has an indomitable spirit, an energetic personality, the courage to overcome difficulties, and the ability to attract people and spread her ideas and enthusiasm.
An event that can serve as an example of that happened when she was on a business trip. She suffered an MS-related seizure and had to be admitted to hospital. At that time, she had already been severely disabled because of a rare muscle condition and needed to be taken care of 24/7.
During the month she spent at the hospital, she relied on steroids just to survive. Even after being discharged, she needed to receive medical treatment at home for more than a month and she suffers consequences to this date.
Despite that, she won the World Summit Award in February 2019, Expo Live and Solve MIT. Additionally, she started conducting accessibility checks for the government and companies.
At that time, she was worried that her projects would be held back. However, the volunteers who sympathize with the vision of WheeLog! kept supporting her project believing in her comeback. Responding to their expectations, she actually succeeded to return to her project and step forward while taking good care of her health.
How long have you been working on your project?
The project started in 2017.
Where are you headquartered?Tōkyō, 東京都 日本
What type of organization is your project?Nonprofit
Describe what makes your project 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 2021 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. As a centerpiece in this process of development and improvement, WheeLog! is unique in its ability to build bridges across different sections of society and make sure the world becomes accessible for everyone.
What is your theory of change?
We are working on building the biggest platform on wheelchair accessibility in the world through our app and website. We also hold both online and offline events every month.
These events will encourage both wheelchair and non-wheelchair users to interact with one another online and offline. We believe that these events will help us achieve our goal of creating an inclusive community and society for wheelchair users.
Through this community, wheelchair users can share their concerns so that others can know what issues they are facing. To solve these issues, our community members are holding events in various places in Japan. This encourages the increase in the users of the application.
We believe that creating an inclusive society wherein wheelchair users can travel more freely helps them attain more independence and interact more with society. It can also help create new services and demands which can solve the social issues that wheelchair users go through.
Select the key characteristics of the community you are impacting.
Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your project address?
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people does your project currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?
As of June 2020, our application has about 28,000 users, about 8,000 of which are wheelchair users. Our goal for the following year is 50,000 users, 20,000 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?
In addition to achieving the goals stated above, we hope to increase the volume of information our application offers. As of June 2020, the app features approximately 38,000 Spots and 7100 km of Tracklog, and we hope these numbers to grow to to 60,000 Spots and 10,000 km within the next year, and to 500,000 Spots and 50,000 km within the next 5 years.
The Olympics and Paralympics are going to take place in Paris in four years, so we also hope to increase the number of users from France, as well as to include relevant information from that country in preparation for the Olympics and Paralympics in 2024.
What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year and in the next five years?
Now WheeLog! is run by 3 full-time employees and 30 volunteers. In order to reach its goals, it is necessary to increase the number of paid staff and expand the business. Its biggest barriers are the lack of stable income and financial problems.
The market for barrier-free information is still an undeveloped field in the world. Additionally, people with disabilities generally have low incomes, which makes the market difficult to grow.
As a result of the preparations for the Olympic Games, the Japanese society has become more interested in wheelchair accessibility. However, maintaining this interest after the Olympic Games remains a challenge.
Due to differences in countries and regions, strong discrimination against people with disabilities is a definite barrier.
・Maintenance of law
Wheelchair accessibility and the treatment of people with disabilities are regulated by laws and ordinances in Japan, but many of them are only recommendations, so further promotion and understanding of the importance of accessibility is necessary in the administration of governments and companies, as well as among individuals.
How do you plan to overcome these barriers?
We are expanding our business by conducting accessibility surveys for companies and the government. To stabilize our income, we have been providing consulting services and developing our application, as well.
First, we will collaborate with the government to raise awareness of wheelchair users' problems. Through the project, we want to present a problem-solving model and make it a part of society. In addition, we aim to stimulate the employment of the people with disabilities as many companies don't see them as qualified human resources.
We want to build a strong foundation for sustainable activities by increasing the number of users and expanding our community in many regions. Thus, we want to work on holding online events, making our social media communication more active, even during the Covid-19 crisis.
To eliminate discrimination, we need to form a bigger community to promote people's interaction and encourage them to understand each other's uniqueness better.
We will submit our request for solving social issues to the government. We have submitted our request for dealing with public transportation and sidewalks, and some of them have already been approved. We've also joined the deliberation council, so we believe that we have the opportunity to make progress with the legislation.
What organizations do you currently partner with, if any? How are you working with them?
The Japan Tourism Agency has asked us to produce a wheelchair accessibility guidebook wherein we introduce wheelchair-accessible restaurants and cafes near the 42 venues for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. The guidebook was written in both English and Japanese. Since we already worked together on a project, we would like to work on more projects with the Japan Tourism Agency.
In addition, we often cooperate with people with disabilities and physical therapists in various places in Japan to hold events such as strolling around town in wheelchairs using our map app.
Outside Japan, we have been chosen as the partner for SOLVE MIT sponsored by the MIT and EXPO LIVE by Expo2020 Dubai. SOLVE MIT supports us to expand in the U.S. and EXPO LIVE to expand around the world. We have been supported by mentors and received subsidies from them.
Also, we are now working with a company which operates accessible taxies in Taiwan, hoping to hold an event there in the near future.
What is your business model?
Our B2B business model can serve local and national governments and corporations in the transportation and accommodation, retail, entertainment industries and others. By using our data and our app, these businesses can improve accessibility of their products and services, and attract more customers. We are still in the phase of calculating the monetary value of such business opportunities.
Schools and other educational institutions are also one of our important target audiences. Wheelog! has conducted many classes on diversity and inclusion and accessibility for the youth in order to create a more inclusive society.
With the increase in awareness of WheeLog!, we have been holding meetings with companies and local governments which discovered the app and received requests for barrier-free surveys. Additionally, we have been commissioned to conduct surveys by the Japanese national government. These achievements are being made toward building business models.
What is your path to financial sustainability?
We have been soliciting donations from individuals and companies since May 2019 and we received around $50,000 by March 2020. We were also able to gather $160,000 in the same year by entering award competitions both in Japan and abroad.
However, these donations and subsidies might not be sustainable in the future, especially due to the Covid-19 crisis this year.
Thus, in 2019 we started a new business of checking wheelchair accessibility as an additional income generating activity, working for both public and private institutions. In order to make this business more sustainable, we are planning to convert the WheeLog's system into API.
If you have raised funds for your project or are generating revenue, please provide details.
・ September 2019：Selected as a Solve Team at Solve MIT. $10,000.
・ September 2019：Received a prize from Morgridge Family Foundation and General Motors in the category of Community-Driven Innovation. $50,000
・ December 2019：Selected as Expo Live Global Innovators of Expo 2020 Dubai $100,000
・ March 2020：Tourism Agency of the Japanese Government (Government) $45,000
・ March 2020：Corporations $11,000
If you seek to raise funds for your project, please provide details.
We hope to receive grants for the following areas:
・$200,000 for the employment of 2 to 4 people
Currently, with the exception of the two paid staff members, we run our services with the help of over 30 volunteers, but, in fact, none of us has engineering skills. Therefore, in addition to hiring some people who may perform desk jobs and sales, we look to employ an engineer part time.
・$200,000 for app modification (web and mobile)
Currently, the web version of our app only has browsing functions, and we would like to add all the other features that our mobile application has, such as the ability to write and post information on accessibility, and so forth. In addition, we would like to incorporate technical functions such as advanced mixed reality (MR) and gamification into our mobile applications.
・$100,000 for API improvement
We hope to improve the API system we have so that it could help develop database cooperation with companies and local governments as a service.
What are your estimated expenses for 2020?
Labor cost $250,000
System development cost $400,000
Management fee $150,000
Why are you applying for The Elevate Prize?
We at WheeLog! are currently using donations and grants we have received to improve our app and pay our staff. Though we were assigned by the government to conduct accessibility research last year and though we have been working hard at it, we have not been able to maintain a stable source of income. Therefore, we hope to receive subsidies through The Elevate Prize so that we may improve the app to the next level, hire more staff, and seek assistance and advice from experts. By doing so, we wish to build a stronger business model and expand our market. We also hope to receive advice on how we may more effectively raise awareness of WheeLog! in other countries. These are some of the reasons why we are applying for The Elevate Prize.
In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?
Please explain in more detail here.
Our goal is to increase the number of our app users all over the world. We need support with our funding and revenue model and with establishing connections with other organizations which promote wheelchair accessibility.
What organizations would you like to partner with, and how would you like to partner with them?
We would like to partner with each country's Ministry of Tourism. This would be a good strategy to make our app available to wheelchair users in countries which are still developing their own wheelchair accessibility system. Moreover, we want to partner with the International Paralympics Committee and with the countries which will hold the Olympics and Paralympics in the near future.
We would like to partner with them to share information and to promote an easy, safe and systematic way for wheelchair users to travel back and forth between Japan and their respective countries.
Furthermore, we want to help improve wheelchair accessibility in developing countries by partnering with organizations and companies providing aid to wheelchair users.