Mapping Accessibility in Istanbul and Beyond

Mapillary’s Community Operations Manager, Said Turksever, introduces us to his passion project—mapping accessibility issues and wheelchair access. Through ICT4Society, Said introduces young people from across Europe to open data and mapping tools. In the process, they build accessibility maps to help government officials make better decisions for their citizens.

Accessibility issues often go unnoticed unless you are part of the population they affect. Some 15% of people worldwide struggle with a disability, but it isn’t always apparent because disabled people can be closed off from society without the freedom of movement that accessibility provides.

Many entrances to businesses in Istanbul, Turkey, are elevated from the street, making them inaccessible to anyone in a wheelchair

I saw this first-hand when my sister needed surgery. We struggled to find hotels and restaurants that could accommodate us and there was little data in Turkey on accessible amenities. Without good and reliable data, decision-makers cannot address accessibility issues and nothing will change. That is where ICT4Society comes in—it’s a project and a movement that promotes the social inclusion of people with disabilities by collecting location data and creating accessibility maps for communities.

Founded by Youth Season and sponsored by EU Erasmus+, ICT4Society runs workshops where young people are taught to use Mapillary and OpenStreetMap to create accessibility maps. Overall, more than 250 young people have attended these workshops with ICT4Society partner organizations in places like Italy (Youth OpenStreetMap Community), Germany (Intercultural Club, Goethe Uni), and the UK (Youth Mappers London). Thanks to these partners, we have organized mapathons in Izmir, Istanbul, Rimini, London, and Offenbach am Main to enrich wheelchair accessibility data on OpenStreetMap.

ICT4Society Mapping Workshop Mapping workshops introduce young people from around Europe to accessibility mapping

Recently, an ICT4Society mapping workshop was held in Beyoğlu, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Istanbul, Turkey. The Accessible Beyoğlu project produced an online map highlighting accessibility issues around the neighborhood, but other areas of the world where this type of mapping has taken place are also viewable, so feel free to explore the map.

Accessibility Map in Istanbul The red circles represent places that are not at all wheelchair accessible in Beyoğlu, Istanbul, Turkey (full map here)

The Beyoğlu workshop is one of several that have been run in Turkey with the help of district governors, but of course, a great accessibility map cannot be produced without a great base map. That is why we are also running #CompleteTheMap challenges in Istanbul to gather data for OpenStreetMap. Alongside the last global #CompleteTheMap challenge, a local competition encouraged the nomination of three locations in Istanbul and with 21 contributors, more than 500 kilometers of roads were uploaded to Mapillary. The top three contributors from Istanbul were rewarded with trips to Erasmus+ sponsored workshops of their choice.

Mapillary Covering of Istanbul during Complete the Map V More than 530,000 images were uploaded during #CompleteTheMap V in Istanbul

If you are interested in holding a mapathon to gather accessibility data in your city, don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any questions. Together, we can build a better and more accessible world for everyone.

/Said, Community Operations Manager

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