A couple of months ago I wrote a blog post about downtown accessibility, and I included a link to a website called AbleRoad. Now there are two, similar sites for rating and looking up business accessibility.
The new site is called AXS MAP, and like AbleRoad, it is a website where you can look up businesses in any area of the US, by name or business type, and find accessibility ratings for those businesses. The ratings are meant to be provided by people with disabilities who use the site. You create a free account, and then you can look up the businesses in your area … or an area you are visiting … and if they don't have accessibility ratings yet, you can add them. If enough people all over the country participate in this, the reference will grow and become more and more useful as more places are rated.
I think this is a fantastic idea. We complain all the time, sometimes with real bitterness, about businesses that are still not accessible, over 20 years after the ADA became law. Yet, I think it's hard to get traction on the issue in part because we lack good data on the extent of the problem. Not only do we not know how many businesses are accessible and which are not, we don't know which kinds of places are more accessible and which are not. We don't know for sure how accessibility might correlate to business size, income, success, or location. It would be great, for instance, to be able to point to nation-wide data that showed that businesses that are not accessible are more likely to fail than those that aren't ... but we don't know that, because we don't have the data. Collecting that data is a huge job, but mass collaboration websites like AbleRoad and AXS MAP might just be a way to do it, or at least make real progress.
That's why I feel guilty for only having rated a couple of places in the last two months, despite having created an AbleRoad account and installed the app and everything.
But, which site should we use?
AbleRoad and AXS MAP seem quite similar. Both use practically the same concept ... they are references but also data collection tools ... and both rely on users to make it better over time by adding more and more accessibility ratings. Both sites have smartphone and tablet apps.
AXS MAP seems a little sleeker and simpler to me than AbleRoad, though that might just be personal taste. Also, AXS MAP has more funders and partners, which of course can be helpful, but I don't think it guarantees success. I was kind of hoping I'd strongly prefer one site over the other, but they are both pretty good.
I like both sites, so if I do decide finally to get busy accessibility-rating places in my area, I might add my ratings to both sites. If you hate that businesses are still full of barriers, use one or both of these sites. They may be the best way for people with disabilities to do something positive about the problem.