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App of the Month: RouteAbility

With summer here, many people are venturing out from hibernation to the great outdoors. For many of us, we can easily hop into our car or walk to our destination with the help of GPS apps. But for people with mobility challenges, it’s not always that easy. July’s App of the Month, RouteAbility, is unique because it maps existing accessible infrastructure, offering the best accessible routes for someone who might require the service.

According to Government of Canada’s 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability, more than 6 million Canadians aged 15 and over are identified to have disabilities. People with disabilities commonly face difficulty in mobility and employment. For July’s App of the Month, we take a look at a customized application called RouteAbility. This app is a helpful tool for mobility-challenged individuals as it captures and maps accessible urban pedestrian infrastructure, including underground paths and crosswalks, in the Greater Toronto Area.

What I love about this application is its effective use of symbology. The symbols used in the map are easy to understand and allows users to quickly identify the roadblocks or infrastructure along the routes.

In the image below, the app shows two route options to a destination – using the sidewalk or The PATH (Toronto’s underground pedestrian tunnels) – while indicating where the proper crosswalks are. Another helpful feature are the symbols and direction information that specify how accessible an elevator or escalator is along that route. This wealth of information helps people with mobility issues plan their route more effectively and save time.

RouteAbility gives options for how you want to route your trip and uses symbology indicating how accessible a route is.

When building a customized application like RouteAbility, the most important thing is collecting the data to fit the purpose of your application. In gathering data, RouteAbility’s team conducted field work to assess the condition and accessibility compliance status of sidewalks and curb ramps. They also participated in accessibility workshops where they accounted for community challenges and used survey feedback to build a routing model.

Once the data was compiled, they used ArcGIS API for JavaScript to display the custom road dataset and customize the settings for how the map will interact with users (e.g. popups). Once those were determined, widgets were added to enable further interaction with the map. In this case, a routing widget was used to help navigate the compiled road dataset.

RouteAbility being the name of the application, utilize the routing widget from ArcGIS API for JavaScript

ArcGIS provides many choices for widgets; to find out more about widgets and ArcGIS API for JavaScript resources, see this documentation as well as sample code. (You can even set up a sandbox to test the sample code.)

RouteAbility not only helps identify strategic navigation routes, it also helps government agencies and potential businesses to leverage location-based data to assist in city planning.

When asked about what they learned in building this app, Nemir, the Enterprise GIS DevOps Manager of RouteAbility said: “One of the lessons our team learned through building this app is to keep it simple. No matter how complicated your application might be behind the scenes, it needs to be easy and engaging for your audience to use.”

This includes not just the aesthetic of the application (a map should not be cluttered with information as that becomes less useful to users) but also how easy it is for the user to pick up quickly. A lot of applications I encounter have widgets that are complicated and lack descriptions or instructions on how to use the widgets.

RouteAbility includes a link to the company’s website that provides step-by-step instructions on how to use the app. The interface also uses simple stacking of widgets with icons that are intuitive.

Moving forward, there are plans to make the app responsive for both iOS and Android mobile devices as people rely more heavily on their mobile devices to provide instant routing information.

Explore RouteAbility.

Want to try building your own app? You can get started with this simple template. If you’re an experienced developer, check out What’s New in ArcGIS API 4.11 for JavaScript.