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A podcast episode from The Flow of Urban Life

How can we make our cities more inclusive? Let’s explore how technology can improve urban design with three guest speakers with a background in innovation and inclusive design.

More than 4.2 billion of us live and work in cities every day. Some of us need specific accommodations for disabilities, whether in a digital world or the real world. Now, as urban populations continue to grow, many cities are turning to technology to create smarter, more liveable environments for all.

We interviewed some of the people innovating new technology to address the challenges of city living.

An app that helps people navigate

BlindSquare is the world’s most widely used GPS-app for the blind, deafblind, and partially sighted. It helps people move around the city and explore their interests by telling them about what’s nearby. Ilkka Pirttimaa is the developer behind BlindSquare, and he believes his app can empower people to navigate our cities in much smarter way.

“When you get close to an elevator that’s been enabled with APIs, BlindSquare can notify you and provide a user interface to select your destination floor.” –Illka Pirttimaa, developer of BlindSquare

A map that makes journey planning easier

Getting into buildings, taking public transport, or moving from the roadway to the sidewalk can be tricky for people with mobility impairments. SozialHelden have been working on a set of tools that help wheelchair users navigate our cities in a better way.

Their story started with Wheelmap, a map designed to help people find and mark wheelchair accessible places, and grew to become a smart journey-planning solution that integrates data from elevators and public transport services.

“It’s not the problem of the person with a disability to take part in daily life. It’s the problem of society and the service provider.” –Holger Dieterich, SozialHelden

Collaboration is the fuel of progress

Mirva Nevalainen believes it’s short-sighted to think of buildings, streets, and public transportations as separate entities; instead, we should be thinking about the bigger picture of how people move around a city.

In order to develop more holistic solutions, companies need to collaborate and share insights with each other. KONE has been working with partners such as BlindSquare to integrate data from KONE’s elevators into apps that help people with disabilities.

“These companies have taught us a lot about the special needs of these special groups. They give us a lot of concrete insights that help us improve our ways of working and how we should develop our products and services.” –Mirva Nevalainen, Head of Partner Innovations Operations at KONE

These collaborations have fueled new findings and boosted progress in developing accessible solutions that have the potential to improve city living for millions of people all around the world.

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