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Project Sidewalk helps users map accessibility around Seattle and other cities

About 3.6 million adults in the United States use a wheelchair to get around, according to census data. But, sometimes, only they know how hard it is to get around a city. Now, people can help map out accessibility in Seattle. University of Washington researchers have led the development of Project Sidewalk, an online crowdsourcing game that lets anyone with an internet connection use Google Street View to virtually explore neighborhoods and label curb ramps, missing or rough sidewalks, obstacles and more. To get started on Project Sidewalk, the team of researchers interviewed people with mobility impairments to learn about how accessibility -- or a lack thereof -- affects their lives. From there, the researchers came up with a method to use crowdsourcing to collect street-level data about accessibility in cities. Project Sidewalk relies on volunteers to log accessibility issues across a city. So, to make it more fun, the team used a video game model. Players go on missions where they audit 500 to 1,000 feet of a city at a time. After the team launched the Washington, D.C., version of Project Sidewalk in August 2016, 797 players added 205,385 labels to the city's streets over the 18-month deployment. Players placed labels accurately about 72 percent of the time and were most likely to find and label curb ramps.

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