UVA student and Code for Charlottesville card for more accessible sidewalks

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia (WVIR) – Charlottesville could become a little more accessible. All thanks to the efforts of a civil engineering student at the University of Virginia.

Lena Nguyen is a fourth year rising student at AVU. She maps sidewalks, crosswalks and ramps in Charlottesville to make them wheelchair accessible. She notes features such as sidewalk slopes to create better transit routes.

“Ultimately, we want to give people, especially those in wheelchairs, easier ways of getting around town,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen works alongside a group called Code for Charlottesville. Their next step is to create a pedestrian routing tool, specifically for wheelchairs.

“This would allow getting around faster because Google Maps really doesn’t help, especially if it gives people directions like by stairs or places where there aren’t shortcuts or wide enough sidewalks, or s “There are things in the sidewalks that would prevent someone with a wheelchair to pass,” Nguyen said.

Code for Charlottesville works with available software applications to manually enter city sidewalks and their data. Anson Parker is a web developer at UVA and also volunteers for Code for Charlottesville with Nguyen.

“So we started doing this work and we started nailing it to UVA, and then we realized the capacity to have an impact, we had to talk about the community as a whole,” Parker said.

This is just the start of the basic work and datasets to help the generalized problem.

“A lot of our cities are just not built for people with disabilities and we need to fix this,” Nguyen said. “So it’s kind of like a bandage.”

Code for Charlottesville hopes to host in-person events during the next semester to test the accuracy of their mapping. Community members could then walk around town and help verify their data.

Copyright 2021 WVIR. All rights reserved.

About Mark A. Tomlin

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