Unlock Philly is an open data project designed to improve access for people with disabilities, elderly people, parents with strollers and others. Unlock Philly won Philly’s instance of National Civic Hacking Day, #hack4access organized by Technical.ly Philly, this past weekend.
The creator of the application, James Tyack (who also works as a software engineer in King of Prussia), first pitched the project at Code for Philly‘s Apps for Philly Transit. The idea came from noticing elevator outages as a frequent public transportation user.
“I use the public transit network everyday, and I’ve just noticed elevators being out and I think it’s very important to raise awareness of that,” Tyack said.
Other Code for Philly members, including Kevin Lee and Chris Ivey, as well as a few students from Penn, have worked on the project.
In addition to the app, Tyack uses social media to draw attention to accessibility issues, such as tweeting when SEPTA has elevator outages that aren’t necessarily being reported. Tyack said he tries to tweet about places and people who are doing good things as well, so it’s not all criticism.
Day to Day Accessibility
Currently Tyack is working on making the app itself more accessible.
“We’d like to make the website itself more accessible to more people. We’re looking at trying to make the map accessible to people who are visually impaired,” he said. He’s been working with some of Code for Philly’s other members, including Jim Smiley, on ways to do so.
The app updates automatically by taking feeds from Septa, PATCO and Yelp.
“We’d like to try and maybe do more crowd-sourcing to get better results from accessibility of businesses because Yelp isn’t always very reliable,” Tyack added, noting that businesses sometimes list on Yelp that they are accessible, even though they aren’t.
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Tyack would also like to have more people contribute to the project, whether by getting involved through Code for Philly, contacting him, or looking at issues in the code on GitHub.
“Apart from that, I’d say that the important thing is that even if people aren’t involved in this project directly, they’re thinking about accessibility day to day and the work they’re doing,” Tyack said.-30-
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