The Telus Convention Centre, Stephen Avenue Place, Life Plaza, and Bow Valley College are the latest additions to Calgary-based app Pedesting, which aims to help provide dignified accessible navigation for individuals with differing levels of mobility.
Announcing the new locations at the Telus Convention Centre on Nov. 2, Pedesting CEO Nabeel Ramji said that adding the additional spaces to the app will make an impact for the tens of thousands of Calgarians who have mobility challenges.
“It creates the impression that these spaces are welcoming and accessible, and makes these spaces work for everyone,” he said.
“As a wheelchair user myself, navigating downtown spaces is often a challenge. The more organizations that join Pedesting, the easier it will be for Calgarians to get around.”
The app provides users with a map that incorporates floor plans from indoor spaces, along with outdoor spacial information to provide route planning that allows for people with mobility challenges to access safe, dignified, and accessible access to spaces.
“When Nabeel and I started this journey together a few years ago, we didn’t challenge the regulatory authority or the people that write the building codes,” said Pedesting Chief Creative Officer and architect Erin Shilliday.
“I realized as an architect, we were making decisions that brought people together but in some cases, they divided us. So, Nabeel and I decided, let’s make the business case by getting the disabled community, and all the restaurants and schools to get up and be seen to be represented.”
He said that they were aiming to address the needs of the more than 100,000 estimated Calgarians who have some form of mobility challenge in navigating the city.
Pedesting is free to download from the Apple App Store and Google Play.
Making spaces accessible is good business
Kurby Court, CEO of the Telus Convention Centre, said that working with Ramji and Shilliday opened the eyes of their organization to making their spaces more welcoming and inclusive.
“They can open your mind, and they can open your staff’s mind, and they can even open an event planner’s mind when they’re coming into a venue and thinking about those who have accessibility those with all abilities,” Court said.
“We’re not just talking about wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, families with strollers, the elderly, or that person that may have just torn a muscle that day and is having a hard time getting around. It’s for all abilities. And I just wanted to recognize that Nabeel is a trusted mentor and advisor at the center.”
He said the addition of the Telus Convention Centre now allows them to provide key navigational information to guests and visitors, and in return, they receive data from how people navigate the centre to help improve their layout and accessibility.
“It’s not only for the user, but it’s actually for the venue to improve their operations and how they can ensure they’re inclusive and accessible in all things that they do. I believe in being a partner on the Pedesting App will help create a city and downtown that is accessible and welcoming to everyone.”
Mayor Jyoti Gondek said that her eyes were opened before she ran for office, while she was serving on the Calgary Planning Commission, and had a chance to go for coffee with Ramji.
Choosing a coffee shop was a challenge, because not every one in the downtown was accessible for people using wheelchairs.
“That day taught me a lot about how we have designed the city that is incredibly ableist in how we’ve designed the city over time, and that it does not often recognize what happens when someone has a disability or an injury, or an aging parent or a child in a stroller,” the mayor said.
Mayor Gondek said that the City of Calgary has been a proud partner with Pedesting, and was able to provide city collected data including LIDAR to help produce the best possible user experience.
She said that sort of connection between the City of Calgary’s open data and private business helps to create opportunities to improve the lives of Calgarians. The mayor said they were good at collecting data, but the question is what do you do with it.
“You’re able to provide it to an organization like Pedesting, and they’re able to create an app that will change lives, and allow more people access to events and places and spaces in our city. That’s using data for good,” the mayor said.
“I believe the City of Calgary has come a long, long way from where we were in terms of open data and understanding the power that it offers for all Calgarians to be engaged. We will continue along this line with other organizations and other apps and other programs that rely on the data that we’re collecting.”