The idea of developing the WhelNav app came to us when we discovered the “AT&T Connect Ability Challenge”.
The purpose of this competition, to leverage mobile technologies in order to improve the lives of people with disabilities, made us realize that we have the opportunity to help millions of people around the world, so we have accepted the initiative and created a software solution to empower their lives.
We’ve started with a research on this market and we were surprised to discover that you can only find applications showing points of interest with accessibility on the map, but no navigation apps for people with disabilities on the App Store.
So, we have decided to create the WheelNav app, an iOS app that combines these two features, and to offer the best navigation experience, we’ve chosen the Scout SDK.
The WheelNav application
As its name describes, it combines information about wheelchair-accessible places and navigation.
Points of interest
Let us talk first about the accessible places part. It is a very big problem that some places are not accessible for people using wheelchairs. Either the entrance step is to high or there are no disabled toilets available. Instead of implementing a service which attaches this kind of information to places, we decided to use an open source service called http://wheelmap.org.
It is a service which is used to search, find and mark wheelchair-accessible places all around the world. Their API enables developers to interact with wheelchair accessible places.
We grabbed this information and displayed it on the map. We are differentiating four type of places, each displayed with different colours:
- Accessible (green): no entrance step, all rooms accessible without steps, disabled toilet are also available.
- Partially accessible (orange): entrance step not higher than 7 cm, most important rooms accessible without steps.
- Not accessible (red): entrance step higher than 7 cm, most important rooms not accessible without steps
- Unknown accessibility (grey): there is no information about the place.
From the top left menu, users can select the accessibility of POIs to be displayed on the map.
The top right button opens a menu for selecting which categories of POIs to be presented. Currently WheelNav supports the following categories:
- Public transfer
- Money post
The users of the app can review further information about these places and have the possibility to change the accessibility of the place, if they consider that the current accessibility attached to the place is wrong.
This feature improves the quality of the accessibility data giving back to the community. Taking in consideration the accessibility of the places it’s possible to plan whole journeys from home, to meet with friends only at accessible places, to visit other cities knowing which places are accessible.
Searching for locations
Searching for locations is possible from the search bar located at the top of the screen. It retrieves results from the POIs on the map and matching addresses.
Selecting a result from the list will center the map to the location of the result showing a callout.
The other big component of the app is the navigation part. We tried to customize the whole navigation experience for people using wheelchairs. WheelNav offers the possibility to create routes from the current position of the user to any other position on the map.
In order to implement the navigation experience for people forced in wheelchairs we integrated the Scout iOS SDK. The routes are calculated taking into consideration the altitudes of the positions along the route, so it provides the fastest and smoothest routes to the user’s destination.
Entering in navigation the user gets visual and audio turn-by-turn information. Our target was to give a hand free experience to users. Following the instructions of the audio guidance component this can be easily achieved.
WheelNav also offers a solution to another common problem when some areas of the city, parts of the streets are blocked. In this case it’s very hard to know on which street to go forward. Using the block road feature of the app, the engine will re-route the user and helps him get to the desired place.
The navigation settings screen can be accessed by tapping the map and selecting the “Settings” option from the action sheet. Here users can turn off the audio, change the map style to night mode, see an overview and information about the route, report a blocked road, enter panning mode, select from 2D and 3D display of the map or quit the navigation.
With the help and the feedback provided by our end users and friends, we improved the app and we got to a production ready state.
As always there’s room for improvement, the following steps are to implement a voice recognition component, in order to ensure that the application is fully hands free, cluster the POIs and use the RealReach feature from the Scout iOS SDK.
The application is available for download from the App Store and we hope that it will help to improve the life of millions of people.
So, feel free to test the application and we’re looking forward to your constructive feedback.
Don’t forget to take a look over the information about the challenge on the Challenge post website: http://challengepost.com/software/wheelnav