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UVA student and Code for Charlottesville map for more accessible sidewalks

UVA Grounds
UVA Grounds
Published: Jun. 27, 2021 at 7:20 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Charlottesville could become a little more accessible. That’s all thanks to the efforts of one University of Virginia civil engineering student.

Lena Nguyen is a rising fourth year student at UVA. She is mapping sidewalks, crosswalks, and curb ramps in Charlottesville in order to make them wheelchair accessible. She notes features like slopes of sidewalks to create overall better transit routes.

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

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

“This would make it quicker to get around since Google Maps really does not help, especially if it’s giving people directions like through stairs or places where there’s no shortcuts or sidewalks that are wide enough, or there’s things in the sidewalks that would prevent someone with a wheelchair to get through,” Nguyen said.

Code for Charlottesville collaborates with available software applications to manually input the city’s 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 that work and we started nailing it down at UVA, and then we realized the ability to be impactful, we needed to talk about the community at large,” Parker said.

This is only the beginning of foundational work and data sets to help the widespread problem.

“A lot of our cities are just not built for people with disabilities and we need to fix that,” Nguyen said. “So, this is kind of just like a band aid.”

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

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