Accessible Routes from Crowdsourced Cloud Services (ARCCS)

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Computer Science


There are, at present, of the order of 1 million people in wheelchairs in the UK and the number is growing as the population ages. Whilst access to buildings has been improved in the past 20 years, people in wheelchairs experience considerable difficulty in the process of travel - whether that is in using public transport or in getting from A to B by wheeling themselves. The overuse of the arms and shoulders that results from the need to travel in non-ideal environments results in injuries and long-term loss of function, exacerbating the difficulties of travel.

Technology has evolved to the point where it is possible to combine sensor systems, with communications, data storage and machine learning algorithms in an IoT deployment to allow us automatically to characterise the environment and to measure the process of moving through it. As a consequence, it is now possible to envision a system in which information from automated data capture, coupled with subjective input and data feeds of travel advice, can be combined to provide navigation information to wheelchair users in a way that respects their specific disability.

The aim of the ARCSS project is to devise a system capable of capturing data of known quality from a large a group of people, by adopting an approach that moves from gold standard measurement through to the collection of data from mobile phone sensors of variable quality and means of attachment, all of it in the wild. By itself, this data will be a unique resource for the scientific community, to the potential benefit of wheelchair users. Using this data, we propose to develop techniques (i) for analysing and presenting information to end users to help them navigate in a way that is personalised and respects their particular disability; (ii) for providing feedback to urban planners about problems in the environment and potential causes or commonalities between them, with the aim of improving design practice in an evidence-based manner.

ARCCS is a fusion of challenging engineering and the use of the engineered systems to conduct scientific studies of acceptability and influence, and so to motivate change. ARCCS involves the design of IoT technologies - primarily focussed on high-quality sensing, data storage and communications rather than actuation. In place of automatic control, the system is designed to provide information to users to allow them to make better choices or, indeed, to contribute to the collection of further information for the general benefit of society. All of the work will be conducted in the wild and all will involve user groups whose role will range from participatory design and system bootstrapping to use and evaluation. This proposal has been developed in the light of problems that have been identified by the wheelchair-using community themselves, as communicated to us through our existing activities in this area.

Given the social and economic importance of allowing wheelchair users better access to places and services that able-bodied people take for granted, it is our intention to make this a profoundly open project. We will publish both the IoT hardware and software as open-source materials, and, subject to ethical approval, appropriately de-identified data will be made available for further research within the community.

Planned Impact

Depending on the source, it is estimated that there are between 750,000 and 1.2 million wheelchair users in England, roughly 1% - 2% of the UK population. Estimates in other developed nations range from about 0.6% to around 1% of the population, with further significant numbers experiencing other mobility problems. The ARCCS project is focussed on this group of individuals, who are triply disadvantaged: by the difficulty in moving about as a result of their disabilities, by poor urban design that results from a lack of evidence about how individual disabled people actually travel, and by a lack of navigational aids tailored for the specific requirements of disabled people. The aim of ARCCS is to provide an evidential base for change using IoT technology to supply the data, and careful scientific validation to ensure that the automated processing of that raw data results in information that is of value in addressing some of the above issues.

The proposed outcomes of the project are, in brief: a variety of technologies for measurement; systems to provide assistance to the disabled; and data - with the power to extend both the collection and the processing of that data over time. The nature of the project is that we expect to put in place mechanisms that will continue to contribute value well beyond the lifetime of direct funding. Consequently, we will make all our systems open (subject to the protection of individual privacy), so that other researchers can contribute to the analysis of data, provision of new services, and the enhancement and maintenance of existing services. Whilst we will test and deploy the technology initially in London (since that is where we are based), no part of the project is intended to be geographically limiting. Consequently, we would expect that, following a successful deployment in London, the service would roll out to other places in the UK and more widely.

ARCCS is planned to be a progressive project, moving from relatively small numbers of carefully validated sensor systems and ground truth based on visual inspection to automated processing of data obtained from the wide variety of current and future mobile phone sensors that are sufficiently ubiquitous that they have the power to deliver impact in scale. The population of people in wheelchairs is large, and so the population who can expect to receive direct benefit in time is correspondingly large. Other beneficiaries include those the wider population with mobility problems, urban planners, and society as a whole - if disabled people are able more easily to travel, then society benefits from their fuller engagement.

ARCCS is a step-change in thinking in that it provides a bottom-up approach to accessibility engineering. ARCCS will build a wheelchair accessibility map for wheelchair users with data from wheelchair users. The resultant data set has the capacity to offer a number of new insights into the way in which wheelchair users interact with the environment and provide an evidence base for practice both in the transport world which is not currently available.


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Barbareschi G Evaluation of wheelchair transfers performance based on body segments acceleration in Journal of Rehabilitation and Assistive Technologies Engineering (JRATE)

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Holloway C (2016) Street rehab: Linking accessibility and rehabilitation. in Conference proceedings : ... Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. Annual Conference

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Holloway C (2019) Disability interaction (DIX) a manifesto in Interactions

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Holloway CS (2015) Linking wheelchair kinetics to glenohumeral joint demand during everyday accessibility activities. in Conference proceedings : ... Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. Annual Conference

Description This is ongoing research

However, we have developed a new technique for wheelchair localisation and surface determination using a fusion of GPS/IMU information and machine learning.
Exploitation Route Our aim is to develop a technology that can be used by disabled people in determining routes across cities.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Environment,Transport

Description The outputs from this project formed part of a dialogue that has been started with the Indian Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. The work in India is being carried on in a GCRF-funded research project (Street Rehab) and will in future be reported there.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Environment,Other
Impact Types Policy & public services

Description EPSRC Global Challenges Research Fund held in the Office of the Vice-Provost (Research)
Amount £76,084 (GBP)
Funding ID 172313 
Organisation University College London 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2016 
End 03/2017
Description Global Disability Innovation Start-up Funds
Amount £600,000 (GBP)
Organisation The London Legacy Development Corporation 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2017 
End 03/2018
Description Research Grants
Amount £245,717 (GBP)
Funding ID ES/N006577/1 
Organisation Economic and Social Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2016 
End 07/2017
Description UBIHealth Networking Project (staff)
Amount £5,500 (GBP)
Organisation University College London 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2016 
End 08/2016
Description UBIHealth Networking Project (student)
Amount £5,000 (GBP)
Organisation University College London 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2016 
End 07/2016
Description World Health Organisation: initial discussions on assistive technology provision 
Organisation World Health Organization (WHO)
Country Global 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The Global Disability Innovation Hub team presented to Chapel Knasnabis, who commissioned the work to create the WHO Priority Assistive Products List (APL). Discussions have continued as to how we could roll out: 1) New courses in inclusive design and assistive technology design; 2) Design of low-cost assistive technologies. The team have subsequently been asked to join his team in Geneva to map out how we can formalise this collaboration.
Collaborator Contribution Presentations on: 1) Wheelchair innovations - how do we harness sensors and systems to monitor dynamically wheelchair use globally and use this to inform policy at a micro and macro level 2) Wheelchair innovations - Could fuel cells be the solution to power requirements for difficult terrains 3) Inclusive design - what can we learn from the London 2012 Games? General discussions on the way in which inclusive design, assistive technology design and manufacture and entrepreneurship lie at the heart of solving the global challenges of accessibilty.
Impact Chapel Knasnabis to present at the first Global disability Innovation Hub summit:
Start Year 2016
Company Name Global Disability Innovation Hub Community Interest Company 
Description The GD Hub Community Interest Company has been established out of collaborations by UCL and London legacy Development Corporation on initial EPSRC research projects. GDI Hub CIC exists to accelerate disability innovations for a fairer world. We have just received our first contract from the Department for International Development and will soon be employing staff to create an ecosystem of innovation on the Queen Elizabeth olympic Park, which has a global reach. There are 4 directors of GDI Hub CIC: Dr. Catherine Holloway, Ms. Victoria Austin, Mr. Iain McKinnon & Lord Chris Holmes. 
Year Established 2017 
Impact We were incorporated in Dec 2017 and are just confirming our first contract with the Department for International Development. In addition we have been told verbally that we have one a research bid for research on disability innovations in Africa. These 2 contracts will result in 1FTE researcher and 0.5FTE Manager role.
Description Public Lecture: University of Auckland 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Public Lecture at the university of Auckland on advances on 'The challenges of creating an accessible transport network in London' as part of the Research Cafe on: Accessible transport and mobility in an age and disability friendly city (Led by Professor Shanthi Ameratunga, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, 13-17 February 2017)have led to:
1) Follow-up discussions with Deloitte, Auckland and University of Auckland about creating a formal partnership with the Global Disability Innovation Hub
2) A number of interesting questions on the day and via email regarding how technology could be used differently to help improve accessibilty.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description UCL-James Dyson Foundation Summer School 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 16 students redesigned the wheelchair using Dyson inspiration during this week-long event which saw them also debate and interact with wheelchair users from Whizz-Kidz.
More info and photos here:
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
Description UCl-James Dyson foundation Summer School: Redesign the Wheelchair 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The Summer School attracts hundreds of applications, from which we select 8 girls and 8 boys to come to UCL for one week. During this time they learn about engineering design practice, how to code sensors to measure wheelchair biomechanics, and making skills. They hear from experts in biomedical, mechanical and interaction engineering. Ultimately they first learn how to push a wheelchair (from wheelchair users) and understand how the basic issue NHS wheelchair could be improved for wheelchair users, then get to hack the wheelchair. They prove their designs at the end of the week. Our latest research is infused into the summer schools, in particular elements of coding and data visualisation. The summer school changes their view of what it is to be an engineer.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016