New app makes maps more accessible

University of Illinois (WCIA) - For most of us getting directions is as easy as opening an app. But if you have a disability, it might not be that simple. A few U of I students are trying to change that by improving campus maps. 

Two of the three students have disabilities themselves. That's what inspired them to create a new web app. It's called "Access Illinois." 

U of I is rated one of the most "disability friendly" campuses in the country. But right now, getting accessibility information online involves a lot of tabs and clicking around. The app's web designer, Mark McCarthy, says that can make it hard to get directions; especially if you can't use both hands.

For example, he has a powered wheelchair. To move around, he operates it with his right hand; making it hard to toggle between tabs. The new app solves that problem by putting all the information on one web page. They're also working on a screen reader for people who are blind. 

"Disability culture in general is still something that is not always thought of with the importance that is should be," McCarthy said. "A lot of times, especially in terms of digital accessibility, it's thought of as an afterthought. I think that having something like this is a really great first step to showing how easy it is." 

McCarthy says his team hopes to have the app available by the end of the summer. 

The app was also part of a campus competition. McCarthy says it took first place. 


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