Originally from Rio de Janeiro, Bianca first came to the University as an intern with a deep interest in the semantic web.
Now she is Project Lead on Crowd4Access – working to identify inaccessibility issues on the streets of Ireland.
Anyone interested in participating Ms Pereira’s citizen science project can find more detail at https://crowd4access.insight-centre.org/ and @Crowd4Access
Why are you so interested in this accessibility question?
I think it comes a little bit from my background. In Brazil, we have a very diverse culture in terms of race. This idea of diversity was always a part of me. I grew up having interest in the idea of equality as well, because in Brazil you don’t have much equality, especially social equality.
When I came to NUI Galway I engaged in many initiatives of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). At some point I was like, OK, we are working on improving the EDI of the institution itself, but how can we put that at the core of what we do in research? How can technology support Equality, Diversity, Inclusion? And how can those values be embedded into technology?
What data is Crowd4Access sourcing and how is it being done?
Our perspective of accessibility is a perspective from diversity. Many times we’ll have this idea of inclusion – on one side there are people with disabilities, physical disabilities and on the other side there are people with no disabilities.
It creates a sort of segregation, especially in the era of technology.
Our goal is a Crowd4Access and access for everyone.
So, we have a disabilities first approach. Let us see the problem from the perspective of people who have disabilities, but it’s not exclusive to people with disabilities.
Everyone has specific mobility needs.
In the same way you find difference, you can also find similarities. Crossing a street at lights is as important for a person using crutches who needs to cross slowly, as it is for an older person, or for a kid. A lower kerb is as important for someone using a wheelchair, but also important for a parent pushing a buggy.
In all those things there are similarities and differences.
The first step is what would we like to see on a map – what are the things that increase or decrease your mobility? Is there a footpath? What are the street crossings? What type – uncontrolled or controlled by traffic lights? What type of kerbs or tactile paving? Have they information, audible cues or vibration or an arrow, to help cross the street?
Then it is the process of mapping. We need to have information about a specific location. So, either someone goes there and checks the exact location of the crossing and puts it on a map, which is really hard, or we take pictures of the locations.
We use OpenStreetMap and we use another service which is called Mapillary (to upload data and images) but all the data is accessible … under creative commons licensing.
What areas is Crowd4Access working in?
We mapped all the South East area of Cork. Mount Merrion in south east Dublin is fully mapped. In the north east of Galway (city) we are mapping roads without footpaths and Headford Road and Castlegar area and Menlo and the boreens as well.
Groups are interested in Ashbourne, Co Meath, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan and in Mayo.
The question of technology and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion – how were you influenced to develop the concept of Crowd4Access?
The first time I really engaged with that question in research was in Crowd4Access. I was watching a panel discussion of the challenges for people with disabilities moving around Galway. Someone in a wheelchair was explaining that sometimes they had to use the middle of the road because they could not go on the footpaths – they are either too narrow or the kerbs are not low enough.
Now, imagine having to do that every single day to go shopping, to school, to work, to visit someone.