Innovative app to improve wheelchair accessibility in Portsmouth

The Route4U app
The Route4U app
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USING a wheelchair in Portsmouth is set to become easier with the help of never-before-seen technology.

This week Portsmouth became the first location in the UK to trial an innovative free app, known as Route4U, which identifies obstacles and allows users to plan their routes.

The Route4U team

The Route4U team

Available for free download on smart phones the system, which was commissioned by Portsmouth City Council, also lets users report access problems.

For Robert Souter, the manager of mobility charity Enable Activity, this marked the progress the city has made in recent years He said: 'Wheelchair accessibility in Portsmouth has been improving in the last 20 years and that's largely down to the work of the Portsmouth Disability Forum. 

'As with any city it is challenging for people in wheelchairs to get around but I'm sure this app will help a lot of people.'

The app indicates pavement obstacles, surface quality, kerb heights, widths, inclines, and travel distances. It also provides route planning and turn-by-turn navigation for wheelchair users and can be customised to each person's own abilities.

Pam Turton, assistant director of transport at the council, said: 'This new technology will have many benefits for people who visit, work and live here. The app is aimed to give people more confidence to undertake journeys by providing detailed information about the environments that they will encounter.'

Volunteers, including members of Portsmouth Disability Forum (PDF), travelled the city to inform the developers about pavement conditions and potential obstacles, which were applied to the app.

For the chair of the PDF, Sharon Smithson, it was 'exciting' to see the app come into use. 'As a wheelchair user, I and other forum members have experienced frustrating barriers, particularly with pavement obstacles and widths,' she said.

'Backtracking and finding alternative routes can take double the time of a normal journey.

'The app should establish a positive way for individuals with disabilities to travel around more accessibly, making the whole journey a better experience.'

Through the app council officers can also access information about the most problematic areas in the city, enabling them to prioritise pavement maintenance work.