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For a barrier-free world

The Berlin organisation Sozialhelden campaigns for barrier-free public accessibility.

© dpa/blickwinkel - Wheelmap

Sometimes it proves difficult for people with limited mobility to get around in everyday life. Underground rail stations without lifts, steps at the entrance to restaurants and cafés, narrow aisles in supermarkets, and all too often access to toilets is not wheelchair-friendly. The non-profit organisation Sozialhelden (Social Heroes) in Berlin began addressing these issues five years ago and developed the digital map for wheelchair-friendly places. It is available free of charge as an app for smartphones in 22 different languages. Meanwhile around 600,000 public places have been evaluated. Two-thirds of them are in Germany.


MapMyDay on 3 December


“We’re really proud that so many people are now using the wheelmap app,” says Jonas Deister, executive director of Sozialhelden. “When more people share their knowledge with others, the greater the numbers of people will be who benefit.” In an effort to raise awareness about the barriers in everyday life, the organisation is working together with the World Health Organization (WHO) to motivate people to join in a special mapping event. The worldwide MapMyDay event is starting on 3 December 2015, the international Day of Persons with Disabilities. It will focus on the mobility of parents with buggies and people with various kinds of walking aids or wheelchairs. With the help of the wheelmap, everyone can share their knowledge about accessibility and wheelchair-friendly places. The process is simple: you download the app, select the chosen place and rank it as fully, partially or not accessible at all to wheelchair users.


“On various occasions we have seen that negative evaluations have led to changes,” Mr Deister notes. “After running a donations campaign we were able to give 400 mobile ramps to shops, cafés and restaurants that were otherwise inaccessible to wheelchairs. This impressed numerous other businesses and they decided to install ramps of their own.” Meanwhile, orders are coming in from Austria and Switzerland. In particular, the enthusiastic involvement of young people has been a special source of inspiration to the wheelmap makers. For instance, in the city of Böblingen in Baden-Württemberg, 30 schools are pooling their efforts to map out all of the important places in their city within a year. “It doesn’t matter whether people do it on their own or in groups. Our aim is to motivate people worldwide to become part of the MapMyDay movement and actively bring about changes,” says Jonas Deister.


International Day of People with Disabilities 3 December 2015