Articles
5
min read

Briometrix and PlanStudio - Helping the Department of Transport Victoria Improve Accessibility.

Written by
Hamish Thomson
Published on
December 7, 2021

At some point in our lives, we have all been challenged by poor accessibility. Whether it be that we are temporarily disabled ourselves, relying on crutches or a wheelchair or not injured at all but having to transport others or move goods relying on wheel-based pathways. We have all either had to push a stroller or even a shopping trolley only to find a lift is out of order, having to find an alternative path of travel to get where we need to go.

Imagine this is your challenge every day. Compound that with the added complexity of managing the threat of COVID-19 as someone with a disability who is a high-risk citizen, who needs to get to a specialist appointment at an unfamiliar location. You don’t know the easiest route and you depend on public transport to get there. Your challenge: to get there with the least amount of human contact and most efficient manner, above all else, you need to get there on time.

How on earth will you manage?

Following two years of lock downs, we are returning to “normal” again and a lot of roadworks and pathway changes have occurred in cities the world over. Once familiar with an accessible route, how can one be sure of how accessible the pathway is at present?

Some cities are better than others when it comes to accessibility.

The cities that are standouts for accessibility are usually those that have hosted an Olympics or Commonwealth games. People living with disability in these cities were shown unlocked freedoms with accessible pathways and transport that literally opened doors for greater possibilities. Not just adventures but opportunities to work and be a greater part of society. Equality was enabled, we all became more unified. Buildings must be planned and constructed to strict accessibility standards in accordance to the building code but that ends at the front door. Issues occur for persons dependent on wheel-based pathways when accessibility does not allow for safe connection from one building to the next.

Connecting accessible pathways with accessible doorways.

The next issue which PlanStudio has been able to resolve is just where that front door is. Even connecting accessibility pathways internally for some buildings, which can often be difficult to ascertain. Some lifts and ramps, although by law have to be designed and built, are not always located in a logical, operational position. For example, a building will need to provide an accessible shower and bathroom but these will often be in the basement level of a building, requiring a person to travel distances in a multi-level building just to fulfill a basic need.

Disability does not just challenge some, it will eventually challenge us all. Our bodies don’t stay young forever, simple tasks become impossible and freedom is lost, as is confidence, and our worlds get smaller.

Briometrix is an organisation that sees this better than any. Realising that so many fitness applications were available but none of them really focussed on people in wheelchairs. They embarked on a study to discover what the barriers were for people living with disability, with a mind set of:

If you can’t go out, you can’t get fit”.

What are some of the barriers then?

They could be as difficult as a steep gradient of a pathway that prevents a wheelchair from transferring from a path, or as simple as a trip hazard on a pathway that anyone could stumble across. Briometrix was looking for a way to be able to map and collect such data in order to display a wayfinding tool that could help people plan a trip with the simple goal of “what time will I be able to arrive at my destination?”. Something we are easily able to do with our GPS capability under “drive” or “walk” settings, but how about “roll” settings?

Some pathways are just not that direct. What happens when there is a set of stairs right in the middle of a journey? You have to find an alternate route. How easy is that to do?

In a proposal made to the Department of Transport Victoria, Robert Christie of Briometrix made it his mission to put forward a plan with four objectives in mind:

  1. To connect places and precincts that nurture strong and inclusive communities, ensuring that Victoria emerges from the challenges of COVID-19 stronger.
  2. Give people the information they need – to make the best travel choices.
  3. Make better use of existing rail, shifting more journeys onto rail and prioritising public transport.
  4. Getting the best out of Melbourne’s Tram and Bus networks.

The project focused on connecting sports precincts, art precincts, public gardens and Southbank. By using Locatrix’s PlanStudio application the project allowed for mapping of three major railway stations and sports and entertainment venues, showing accessibility paths (and alternatives) and pathways to accessible entrances. Nobody knows where accessible entrances, lifts or amenities are, until they get there and search for them.

Now, thanks to Briometrix, a person with a disability can wayfind to the correct entrance, saving time and energy – and if you’re pushing your own chair, getting to the wrong entrance can be a day’s worth of energy wasted because of insufficient information.

The main concept piloted was therefore effort-based mobility maps. This guide directs people of limited mobility to a location by showing a route that is suitable for their level of mobility. Highlighting levels of difficulty reflected on pathway gradients, colour coded to help in selecting the best route choices. It can be as simple as someone pushing a pram accompanied by toddlers on scooters and cycles through to seniors on mobility scooters to others living with limited mobility. All these people depend on viable wheel-based pathways.

Thanks to Briometrix and their clever adoption of PlanStudio, Melbourne now can provide information to assist anyone depending on wheel-based pathways to get to where they need to go, and better understand any challenges they are likely to face before setting out on their journey.

With borders opening up and interstate travel on everyone’s agenda, visitors to Melbourne who are also dependent on wheel-based pathways can make that trip via public transport to the Australian Open or AFL and be confident they are heading to the right gate via the most convenient transport route.

A pilot program and a critical one, mapping these venues, transport networks and connecting footpaths is setting the example for the rest of the world. For cities like Sydney and the Gold Coast who have benefited from accessibility infrastructure upgrades thanks to the Olympics and Commonwealth games, the mobility maps solution is one that can be easily achieved through the use of PlanStudio data collection overlayed via PlanStudio Application Programming Interface (API) and onto outdoor maps. By connecting the best pathway to the most accessible entrance, and beyond that, showing internally where the most accessible lift is located, travellers have certainty and their journey can be planned with confidence. Follow this link to experience for yourself https://briometrix.com/dot-brio-map

Is PlanStudio easy to use? “The ease of use is a breeze” Robert Christie a Civil Engineer himself admits. “With the great support of Locatrix’s team, in particular Cody Ross, our team was trained quickly and creating plans the same day. Once you understand the principals of PlanStudio, you can easily go ahead and create what you need”.

We look forward to Briometrix using PlanStudio to map more of our cities, connecting the accessible buildings and transport infrastructure via pathways and alternatives, opening up a world of potential, providing accessible and inclusive travel and tourism opportunities for all.

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