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App makes cities more accessible to wheelchair users

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Published on Jun 14, 2018

(9 Jun 2018) LEADIN:
Wheelchair users in the Italian city of Florence are getting around more easily thanks to a smartphone app.
An Italian startup developed the app, called Kimap, which shows the best route to take and updates with information from users' latest journeys.
STORYLINE:
For wheelchair users, navigating around a busy city like Florence can be a challenge.
The streets are full of obstacles and finding a hassle-free route can be difficult.
Simona Ciarrocchi lives in the centre of Florence and has spent the last four years using a wheelchair due to illness.
She says she got used to limiting herself to visiting places that she knows are wheelchair accessible.
"A person in a wheelchair faces many difficulties, first of all streets, sidewalks, shop entrances, even public offices and health authority offices. I find it difficult to go to some places and so I have given up going there and I only go where I know I can get in, where I know the entrance is accessible," she says.
But she says that since she started using a free smartphone app a year ago, things have changed.
The app, called Kimap, helps wheelchair users by showing them the best route to take in order to get from one part of the city to the other.
Ciarrocchi says the app not only gives directions, it also makes users feel more independent.
"Kimap helps me by showing me the best route to take, the most accessible one and gives me a little bit of serenity and self-confidence," she says.
Kimap was created by a Florence-based startup called Kinoa.
"Kimap is the first navigator for disabled people (who use wheelchairs). It's a smart navigator that obtains information from the users about the accessibility of streets," says Lapo Cecconi, CEO and co-founder of Kinoa.
"In this way, it provides the best route to take to get from A to B. The Kimap project is innovative because, while it works, it automatically detects the quality of the ground and it can indicate the presence of obstacles and architectural barriers (indicated by users)."
People attach their smartphone to the wheelchair and Kimap is able to detect vibrations and collect information regarding the conditions of the road.
This means Kimap is collecting data at the same time as giving directions.
When a user opens the app, they select the type of wheelchair they use (regular wheelchair, electric handcycle or scooter), then enter the name of the street they're going to and Kimap calculates the route.
Kimap was born thanks to Armando Dei, Kinoa's Community Manager.
Armando, who suffers from a degenerative illness, was starting to use a wheelchair at the beginning of 2016, the same time that Lapo Cecconi and his team wanted to design a sporting app.
Dei suggested changing the aim of the app and designing something new: a navigation app for people using wheelchairs.
"When I was well, I wouldn't have thought about inventing Kimap. Kimap was born from my illness, because I realized that there were limits and also a way to get over them," he says.
"This is not just about the technology, it's also about having met the right people to share this project with. They didn't share my illness, luckily for them, but also for me, because thanks to them, who are well, I can do many more things. And Kimap was developed in this way, and it was born from an illness, but it is also a way to get over this deficit. To me it's a way to get over this deficit, Kimap is that to me."
That means that Kimap can be used in every city, all around the world.

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