Always put yourself in others’ shoes. If you feel that it hurts you, it probably hurts the other person, too.

What would have happened if humanity never invented remote control for TV? Would that change the product’s usage and popularity in our daily life or we would continue using it despite the “terrible” unfriendly user design? Lucky we are that TV is not lifeline product (though some people claim to be so), but what if one day the bakery becomes not user-friendly at all? Would people stop buying bread?

Or would the users let the bakery become non-friendly, or complain unless it becomes usable and friendly for regular shopping back again. Easiest way is to switch to a bakery which is friendly and accessible and which cares about their customers.

Here in Armenia we organized a mapathon of accessible places in the centre of capital Yerevan. Firstly to tell that in our social start-up incubator we have supported such an amazing idea as Matcheli Vayrer (Accessible Places) mobile app development, but most importantly tried to engage as many people as possible in rethinking the accessibility of city we live in.

Participants of Accessibility Mapathon
Mapathon is the format of the mapping event, where everyone contributes to the creation of a certain map: be it Yerevan accessibility map or Open Street Map Mapathon or Google Mapathon.
Participants installing Matcheli Vayrer mobile app

The weekend morning started with people on wheelchair, people walking on their two feet, parents with prams and cyclists joining the event. As not everyone had the clear picture of what the accessibility meant and if there was something special to pay attention to, there was a quick introduction how users can assess the accessibility of any place based on the certain criteria.

This included, for instance, not only presence of ramps but the angle they were constructed in, also adjusted toilets or height of the customer service desk or whether people with visual impairments could feel comfortable in a shop or restaurant. Each participant was free to choose one of the three walking routes and check all places on the map they meet on their way and check their accessibility. The enthusiasm got even higher when one of the very active mappers found hidden treasures on one of the routes. Though enthusiasm of seeking accessible places was combined with disappointment of not large number of places to put on the map. The impression got even worse when trying to use a ramp we realized it requires some hiking skills.

Employee of Ministry of Emergency Situations takes part in Accessibility Mapathon organized by Matcheli Vayrer & Kolba Lab

We heard one of the participants saying “This was my favourite café, I would have never thought it was that inaccessible for a person on a wheelchair!”

Participants of the Accessibility Mapathon pinned the ramp on the map.

Why would someone design a product/service in a way people can’t consume it? Maybe nobody has told the designer that it is not possible to use? Trying to get user experience during the two-hour mapathon, provoked an alternative perception of the streets we walk every day and the shops and cafes we go in regularly. Throughout two hours mapathon over 70 objects were added on the map.

Putting site reviews on the map which is accessible both through the website and mobile app was a shortcut to cover a lot of places and make the information easily accessible to people with disabilities or parents with prams or tourists with luggage. Once the majority of businesses in a city are rated, the business community will start to take notice and want to get better ratings. That’s the idea anyway.

What’s next?

This was our first experience in engaging people for the mapathon and we modestly consider this to be a good base to build and organize similar event in other cities of Armenia. You can fing more photos of the mapathon here.

As 2016 marks the 10th anniversary year of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and keeping up the inspiration from the weekend Marathon, UN Armenia Office joined the mapping initiative by organizing a special mapathon for UN employees this October!

Approaching the winter season, together with Matcheli Vayrer’s team we’ll be looking forward to a better season for mapathons in other cities of Armenia.