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Amsterdam is very accessible already, but it still wants to improve

Amsterdam improves city accessibility with machine learning

Amsterdam improves city accessibility with machine learning

Every citizen can indicate how inclusive public spaces are in the Dutch capital

On 8 March, Amsterdam announced that it is measuring and improving the accessibility of the city using big data and artificial intelligence. An online trial has started and will last until the summer, allowing any online user to explore the city and report places that are not inclusive for users with physical disabilities. All this without even leaving their home.

How does this improve city accessibility?

As part of the Project Sidewalk, online users can take a virtual stroll around Amsterdam and mark concrete accessibility issues. These can range from broken or missing curb ramps, missing guidelines, obstacles on the path, surface problems, missing sidewalks, among others.

Amsterdam has integrated the service on a special online platform, developed by researchers from the University of Maryland, that uses Google Street interactive images. Upon clicking “Start exploring”, one is automatically assigned a task or a mission – to explore a particular length of a road in a certain neighbourhood. They can also opt for a different neighbourhood instead.

Ideally, the entire city should be mapped before the trial ends. This will help city authorities gain a better understanding of what needs to be done, fixed or improved, to make Amsterdam even more accessible than before.

The combined data, received from users, will be used to improve city planning, build accessibility-aware mapping tools, and train machine learning algorithms to automatically find accessibility issues. Hence, after the summer, the accessibility information will be shown on maps and will serve policymakers for further action.

Amsterdam is reportedly the first European city to measure accessibility using artificial intelligence, but the project had already been tried out in several cities in Mexico and the USA.

By the time of writing this article, the mapping has been completed at almost 8%, with over 1,300 issues reported, hence there is a lot more work to do. If you want to join the large community contributing to Amsterdam’s accessibility, go directly to Project Sidewalk Amsterdam and start reporting.

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