Click&Push Accessibility Inc. is a social enterprise dedicated to increasing the ease of personal mobility for all by providing technology capable of improving accessibility and creation of inclusive communities. Our main project involves launching an accessibility mapping app, called The Atlas, that combines subjective user experience information and objective exertion data.
Our built environments are not designed for ambulation in a manual wheelchair and thus are physically demanding to navigate. But specifically, how demanding? Our research team, in the Rehabilitation Robotics Laboratory at the University of Alberta, has created a wearable device for manual wheelchair users (MWUs) that can be attached to their wheelchair and will measure the distance traveled by the MWU, the speed they traveled at, and the force they must input to travel; much like a FitBit for a wheelchair. We have patented this device and it is called Redliner.
Data gained from Redliner can be used to create maps of public spaces in terms of how difficult they are to navigate in a wheelchair; our team refers to these maps collectively as the Atlas. It is our hope that we can help prevent overexertion of the upper extremities by producing exertion maps of public spaces, such as conference centres, museums, recreation centres, universities, and national parks. Enhancing personal mobility allows manual wheelchair users to live with dignity, enjoy a higher quality of life, and participate as functional members of society. At the same time, it enables planners and designers to mitigate, repair, and remove hazards in the environment.
Redliner was a tool that was initially used for research purposes by our lab, to measure the angular acceleration, velocity, and force of propulsion in manual wheelchair users. Before Redliner, the gold standard for extracting these metrics was a more expensive, weighty piece of technology called SmartWHEEL which requires you to physically attach a wheel onto a manual wheelchair. As such, outside the clinical setting, it was practically useless. However, the allure of Redliner was that it did not impede maneuverability, it was lightweight, and it was significantly cheaper, meaning we could use the device in ways that no one had dared to utilize. One fateful night, Dr. Martin Ferguson-Pell woke up at 3 a.m. and had a “Eureka” moment where he realized that Redliner has immense potential to be used as a navigation aid. On the summer of 2018, he hired two trainees to develop proof-of-concept for the use of Redliner in mapping by having them complete a pilot in Edmonton-Stratchcona during the International Fringe Festival. This was the birth of Click&Push. Today, the company has come a long way and is currently negotiating contracts with local post-secondary institutions.
We wanted to translate our research to the community and help those with mobility limitations to better engage with their community without fear of difficult terrain. In this way, we hope to increase participation in society and improve quality of life, in general.
We are currently negotiating with a few post-secondary institutions to develop accessibility maps and further develop our software capabilities. We are looking forward to building more relationships with community organizations and addressing the problem from ground-up by consulting those with mobility impairments.
We are humbled & honored to receive the spinoff award and encouraged to do more to promote universal access and inclusivity for all.