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Filmmaker Designs Platform That Can Help People With Disabilities See How Accessible Places Are

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Jason DaSilva was working as a filmmaker, producing feature-length documentaries and short films, when he got his first iPhone in 2007.

Now, he is putting his skills towards a web development project designed to help people with limited mobility.

DaSilva, who has multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair, often had trouble getting into locations situated up a flight of stairs. He wondered why information on a location’s accessibility wasn’t readily available online.

“I saw the potential for this to change the world in a really big way,” DaSilva said. Thus, AXS Map was born.

AXS Map (pronounced “access map”) is a platform, available for the web as well as virtual reality systems Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR, that allows users to log accessibility details and virtually visit a space prior to physically arriving.

“Being able to see a place before you get there is huge!” DaSilva told The Mighty in an email. He said that his platform can also help users preview their route before leaving home, which is useful for everyone — not just for those with mobility impairments.

“With VR AXS Map, [users] can reenact this over and over, relieving them of any stress and getting them to practice until [the trip] is ready to become reality,” DaSilva said.

The VR iteration of AXS Map recently won the Audience Choice Award at a Demo Day sponsored by the Made in New York Media Center and the Independent Filmmaker Project.

DaSilva’s collaborator, developer Loren Abdulezer, told Filmmaker magazine after the Demo Day that the project’s organizers are seeking $250,000 — which would cover increased staffing and a software upgrade — for its next round of funding.

“We’ve got some very interesting technology and capabilities, and when you marry that to important ideas you can do extraordinary things,” Abdulezer told the magazine. “What was great about the [Demo Day] presentation is that everybody in the room ‘got it’ — they saw the significance and potential of what VR AXS Map can do.”

Since its launch in 2009, AXS Map has helped an estimated 20,000 users log reviews for 100,000 locations in 170 cities. DaSilva believes that’s just the beginning. He said feedback from users has been overwhelmingly positive, and hopes the platform will inform public policy and accessibility laws.

Originally published: June 15, 2016
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