Journal of Geographical Systems

, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 269–287 | Cite as

U-Access: a web-based system for routing pedestrians of differing abilities

  • Adam D. Sobek
  • Harvey J. Miller
Original article


For most people, traveling through urban and built environments is straightforward. However, for people with physical disabilities, even a short trip can be difficult and perhaps impossible. This paper provides the design and implementation of a web-based system for the routing and prescriptive analysis of pedestrians with different physical abilities within built environments. U-Access, as a routing tool, provides pedestrians with the shortest feasible route with respect to one of three differing ability levels, namely, peripatetic (unaided mobility), aided mobility (mobility with the help of a cane, walker or crutches) and wheelchair users. U-Access is also an analytical tool that can help identify obstacles in built environments that create routing discrepancies among pedestrians with different physical abilities. This paper discusses the system design, including database, algorithm and interface specifications, and technologies for efficiently delivering results through the World Wide Web (WWW). This paper also provides an illustrative example of a routing problem and an analytical evaluation of the existing infrastructure which identifies the obstacles that pose the greatest discrepancies between physical ability levels. U-Access was evaluated by wheelchair users and route experts from the Center for Disability Services at The University of Utah, USA.


Accessibility Disability Pedestrian Routing GIS 


  1. Campin B, McCurdy W, Brunet L, Siekierska E (2003) SVG maps for people with visual impairment. In: Proceedings from SVG Open Conference July 2003Google Scholar
  2. Cherkassky BV, Goldberg AV, Radzik T (1993) Shortest path algorithms: theory and experimental evaluation. Discussion paper, Department of Computer Science, Stanford University, Stanford, CAGoogle Scholar
  3. Church RL, Marston JR (2003) Measuring accessibility for people with a disability. Geogr Anal 35(1):81–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Dewey C (2001) Navigation services for wheelchair users consideration of special physical demands in computer-based wayfinding. [Unpublished Master’s thesis]: Institute of Geoinformatics, University of MuensterGoogle Scholar
  5. Dijkstra EW (1959) A note on two problems in connexion with graphs. Numer Math 1:269–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Foster L (2004) Progressive access: unique solutions for historic buildings. J Arch Conserv 10(3):73–86Google Scholar
  7. Franklin K (2005) A three-stage test provides some answers in disabled access cases. Arch J 221(5):46Google Scholar
  8. Gallo G, Pallottino S (1998) Shortest paths algorithms. Ann Oper Res 13:3–79Google Scholar
  9. Gleeson B (1999) Can technology overcome the disabling city? In: Butler R, Parr H (eds) Mind and body spaces. Routledge, London, pp 98–118Google Scholar
  10. Golledge RG, Stimson RJ (1997) Spatial behavior: a geographic perspective. Guilford, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  11. Goodrich MT, Tamassia R (1998) Data structures and algorithms in Java. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  12. Golledge R, Loomis KM, Klatzky RL, Flury A, Yang XO (1991) Designing a personal guidance system to aid navigation without sight: progress on the GIS component. Int J Geogr Inf Syst 5:373–395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Golledge R, Klatzky RL, Loomis JM, Speigle J, Tietz J (1998) A geographical information system for a GPS based personal guidance system. Int J Geogr Inf Syst 12:727–749CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Little J (1995) What has ADA really done? Accent Living 39(4):28–30Google Scholar
  15. Matthews H, Beale L, Picton P, Briggs D (2003) Modeling Access with GIS in Urban Systems (MAGUS): capturing the experiences of wheelchair users. R Geogr Soc 35(1):34–45Google Scholar
  16. Matthews MH, Vujakovic P (1995) Private worlds and public places: mapping the environmental values of wheelchair users. Environ Plann A 27:1069–1083CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Miller HJ, Shaw S (2001) Geographic information systems for transportation: principles and applications. Oxford University Press Inc, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  18. OGC (1999) The open GIS guide (3rd edition) introduction to interoperable geoprocessing and the open GIS specification, available at
  19. Plewe B (1997) GIS online: information, retrieval, mapping, and the Internet. Onword Press, Sante FeGoogle Scholar
  20. Satalich GA (1995) Navigation and wayfinding in virtual reality: finding proper tools and cues to enhance navigation awareness. [Unpublished Master’s thesis]: University of Washington, Seattle, WAGoogle Scholar
  21. Sheffi Y (1985) Urban transportation networks: equilibrium analysis with mathematical programming methods. Prentice Hall, Englewood CliffsGoogle Scholar
  22. Shekhar S, Chawla S (2003) Spatial databases: a tour. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle RiverGoogle Scholar
  23. Thompson H (2005) Something for everyone. Blueprint. v227, p 90Google Scholar
  24. W3C (2000a) Accessibility feature of SVG.
  25. W3C (2000b) SVG linearizer tools.
  26. Waldura R (2003) Dijkstra’s shortest path algorithm in Java. Available at
  27. William A, Patterson J (2004) Get your act together. Arch J 13:44Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA

Personalised recommendations