Campaign aims to create comprehensive guide to accessibility in Ann Arbor locations

Ann Arbor residents and businesses are being invited to help create a more inclusive city for people with disabilities by getting involved with a new tagging feature in the GO MUVE app. The request for action comes from the Western-Washtenaw Added Value Express (WAVE), Ride YourWay, and community partners Ann Arbor SPARK and the Ada Business Association.

In Washtenaw County, GO MUVE offers door-to-door transit booking and other services for WAVE transit users. GO MUVE's accessibility tagging feature allows users to tag locations – such as restaurants, movie theatres, and parks – and identify their level of wheelchair accessibility. Following a recent community accessibility tagging event in Ann Arbor, GO MUVE and its partners are asking people to continue to help build out its tagging feature. 

Using the tagging feature involves answering nine "yes" or "no" questions related to accessibility. Based on the answers given, the app's algorithm will either generate a green tag for 100% accessibility, an orange tag for partial accessibility, or a red tag that deems a destination inaccessible. 

Tom Sikkema is the founder of Ride YourWay, a Western Michigan transportation provider for people with disabilities. He says that the tagging initiative's goal is to create a more transparent community, and give individuals who face mobility challenges "another tool in their toolbelt to make informed decisions."

"People can make better choices around what restaurant they want to go to, or what event they want to attend, based on its reviews and wheelchair accessibility," he says. "Otherwise, they could potentially reach a desired location and then find out there's a two-inch concrete lip in order to get through the front door, and there's no wheelchair ramp."

He stresses that there are a lot of barriers that individuals who don't face mobility challenges don't recognize. He says the intention behind the feature is not to punish inaccessible locations, but strictly to inform. 

"If a place doesn't have a wheelchair ramp, that's okay," says Sikkema, who learned firsthand about mobility issues after being treated for brain cancer in 2013. "It could be a learning opportunity. Maybe planning for a ramp in future construction plans might lead to empowering more people to visit a business later on."

Sikkema says Ann Arbor is a natural focal point for GO MUVE's expansion. 

"Ann Arbor is a thriving area and really a community that's very involved with all their residents," he says. "It's easier to impact people who are more open, and who are more willing to adopt new ways of doing things, with this type of technology." 

Jaishree Drepaul is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at jaishreeedit@gmail.com.