SO F T W A R E Open Access
Wheelmap: the wheelchair accessibility
, Jonas Deister
and Holger Dieterich
Crowdsourcing (geo-) information and participatory GIS are among the current hot topics in research and industry.
Various projects are implementing participatory sensing concepts within their workflow in order to benefit from the
power of volunteers, and improve their product quality and efficiency. Wheelmap is a crowdsourcing platform
where volunteers contribute information about wheelchair-accessible places. This article presents information
about the technical framework of Wheelmap, and information on how it could be used in projects dealing
with accessibility and/or multimodal transportation.
Keywords: Wheelmap, OpenStreetMap, Open data, Crowdsourcing, VGI, Accessibility
Wheelmap - a map for wheelchair-accessible places is an
initiative of the Sozialhelden, a grassroots organisation
from Berlin, Germany. On Wheelmap
everyone from all
over the world can find and add places and rate them by
using a traffic light system. The map, which is available
since 2010, shall help wheelchair users and people with
mobility impairments to plan their day more effectively.
Currently, more than 800,000 cafés, libraries, swimming
pools, and many more public places have been captured.
While the majority of the places which have been added
so far are located in Germany, the mapping platform
works globally, as it is based on OpenStreetMap (OSM).
The Wheelmap interface is available in Arabic, Danish,
German, Greek, English, Spanish, French, Icelandic,
Italian, Japanese, Swedish, Turkish, Korean, and Polish.
Wheelchairs or purpose-built cars on the one hand,
elevators and ramps on the other allow people with
mobility impairments to plan their day independently
to a great extent. But frequently, the last meters de-
cide whether the trip to the cinema, beer garden or
supermarket was worth the effort. Just one single step
at the entrance can be an insurmountable obstacle,
and this is where Wheelmap comes into play. Users
provide information for other users on how accessible
a destination is. Thereby, the map contributes to an
active and diversified lifestyle for wheelchair users.
People with rollators or buggies benefit from this tool
as well. Furthermore, the aim of Wheelmap is to
make owners of wheelchair-inaccessible public places
aware of the problem. They should be encouraged to
reflect on and improve the accessibility of their
As mentioned earlier, Wheelmap is based on Open-
StreetMap, an open, editable map of the digital open
source map of the world. Everyone can search for
places and – provided they have been tagged – get in-
formation about how easily accessible the places are.
Those who sign up as a user are able to add and rate
new places. An easy traffic light system marks the
wheelchair accessibility of a place: Green signifies an
unrestricted access – e.g. because there are no steps or
there is a permanent ramp, an elevator or other tools
which allow the entrance. Places which are orange-
colored have no toilets but might have a foldable ramp
for example. Places which are red-colored are not ac-
cessible for wheelchair users. In general, the more
people join Wheelmap and add places the more precise
and informative the map gets.
Sozialhelden is an incorporated, not for profit soci-
ety, located in Berlin, Germany. In addition to a small
paid staff, it comprises a network of volunteers en-
gaging in various activities regarding social justice. It
* Correspondence: firstname.lastname@example.org
GIScience research group, Institute of Geography, Heidelberg University,
Full list of author information is available at the end of the article
Open Geospatial Data,
Software and Standards
© The Author(s). 2017 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0
International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and
reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to
the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Mobasheri et al. Open Geospatial Data, Software and Standards (2017) 2:27