Option for wheelchair routing now available within OpenRouteService

We are happy to announce that the first version of the wheelchair routing profile is now available online within OpenRouteService and goes into beta testing phase. Currently, there is a separate version (http://openrouteservice.org/wheelchair-2.1/) for testing that contains this new feature, which currently covers Germany only. However, after beta testing, it will also be available via the main openrouteservice.org webpage with the same spatial coverage as ORS (cf. Major Update for OpenRouteService Backend) including all of Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania. As always feedback is welcome.

In the pictures below, you can see the effect on route planning for an example route in Heidelberg. While the route plan for pedestrians takes a bridge crossing the river Neckar into account that is only accessible for pedestrians via steps, the wheelchair route plan suggests an alternative route via the next bridge.

IMPORTANT: There is a huge lack of data about sidewalks and footways/paths, such as surface, smoothness, incline and also dropped kerbs. However, this information is necessary to compute optimal routes for wheelchair users. Since the quality of the computed routes can only be as good as the underlying OpenStreetMap data that is used, we are calling the OSM contributor crowd to help improving this situation!

If you want to know, where contributions are still needed – in fact they are needed in most areas 😉 -, we highly recommend the OSM Quality Assurance Editor that has been developed by the OSM user nitegate (aka Adrian Stabiszewski) with some extensions from our side as reported earlier. In the current version, this tool shows you e.g. streets that do not have any sidewalk tags yet, ways without an incline tag and also ways without surface/smoothness tags. The latter two will need to be extented to surface and smoothness tags specifically of sidewalks in the future. Currently the tool is not yet able to consider sidewalks that have digitized as separate features. However, on the plus side, as you can already judge from the name, the quality assurance editor allows you to directly edit identified ways where data is still missing using your OSM account.

If you want to contribute to the collection of sidewalk information, please also consult the OSM Wiki pages about sidewalks ([1], [2]) and wheelchair routing and relevant tags [3], and sidewalks (pages are available in several languages, including e.g. [1], [2], [3]).