Non-accessible spaces are a daily frustration for people who use wheelchairs. Like many city-dwelling seniors, Chong-Wey Lin's grandmother was once an outgoing patron of her neighborhood's restaurants but became hesitant to leave her house as her age climbed and her mobility decreased. Pained by his grandmother's increasing isolation, Lin harnessed his background in information and data sciences to approach accessibility at a systems level. He created OurCityLove Social Enterprise, an organization that produces a suite of apps for people to rate restaurants on food and accessibility in select Asian cities. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Owf0qr9rsl8&list=PLNaJRQXAMEFG8x4_g74NEiKM3lLIyi5Uf Lin connected with disability rights activists in Taiwan to develop OurCityLove's content and user experience. The app primarily serves wheelchair users, as well as people with vision and hearing impairments, and operates under the rallying cry of marginalized people across social movements: "Nothing without us about us." A space may seem accessible to a person without disability, Lin explained, but reviews from users often describe a too-steep incline to the door, or cramped floorspace that makes getting to the tables impossible. To generate content for the app, 400 paid ambassadors with disabilities go to restaurants, bars, hotels, and public spaces to take photos of entires, door handles, the width and height of tables, restroom accommodations, and parking facilities. The pictures often feature the ambassadors themselves: Users can see, for example, if their electric chair will be able to squeeze through a narrow entryway, or if a parking space would be able to accommodate a specially-designed vehicle. OurCityLove has rated 4,000 restaurants so far. OurCityLove certifies accessible restaurants and has an in-app service that reads menus aloud for visually-impaired users. Founded in 2012, OurCityLove now operates in 12 Taiwanese cities, as well as Japan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur. Lin is looking to bring the app to North America and Europe in the next few years. The information is helpful to restaurant owners and people without disabilities, especially as the number of mobility-impaired people in cities grows. "Oftentimes, restaurant workers don't know how to serve people with disabilities. They offer too much help, or not enough." OurCityLove helps to educate restauranteurs with initiatives like priority seating for customers with disabilities or temporarily limited mobility, similar to the near-the-door seats on public buses, Lin explained. "We invite restaurants to have priority seating. Of the approximately 3,000 accessible restaurants in Taiwan, about 2,100 now have priority seating." Lin pulled up OurCityLove on his phone. Users choose a category (restaurant, hotel, transportation) and whether they are looking, for example, to eat at a restaurant with wheelchair access and priority seating, or a restaurant near an accessible metro stop. (OurCityLove's Friendly Metro Taipei even keeps tabs on elevator maintenance, so users aren't inconvenienced by out-of-service lifts.) "The issue of accessibility is not limited to disability. Everyone gets old, or has kids with strollers, goes on crutches. Everyone will once or occasionally have limited mobility." While dismantling barriers to physical accessibility through universal design is a crucial long-term goal, it takes time and money to modify the built environment, especially in older districts. OurCityLove bridges the gap as infrastructure catches up.
Posts tagged with "New Cities Summit":
New Cities Summit dives into creating equitable, inclusive cities for refugees and undocumented immigrants
While the relentless narcissism of tech leaders is skewered in shows like HBO's Silicon Valley, the most popular digital tools are designed to help individuals understand more about the world and foster social interaction. One panel at the New Cities Summit discussed how (or if) technology can be used to create more inclusive cites by reimagining citizen engagement with pressing, divisive social issues like the redistributing the means of production, shared resources, housing shortages, and migration. The discussion, moderated by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design's Dilki de Silva, brought together Jenviev Azzolin, president and cofounder of PPLCONNECT and WeHost; Josh Lerner, cofounder and executive director of the New York–based Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP); Steven Ramage, strategy director of What3words; and Asif Saleh, senior director of strategy, communication, and empowerment at BRAC International ("one of the largest NGOs you have never heard of"). Lerner's organization, the PBP, encourages citizens, especially marginalized residents, to participate in local democracy: "Participatory budgeting adds concrete outcomes to participation," he explained. "If you come out, you can decide how to spend a million dollars in your neighborhood." Meetings are held in churches or community centers, and residents decide if funds will be spent on parks, schools, or city streets. Budget delegates take ideas and bring them to applicable city agencies, who then return with an actionable plan that the community votes on. Annual process, reaches people who are not online by texting information to participants. The video below gives an overview of the process and outcomes: https://vimeo.com/162743651 For all the dopamine-boosting allure of smartphones, some of the best tech for community engagement is, Lerner quipped, "something you may have heard of: Pen and paper." It's the most cost-effective tool for engagement, especially for individuals who may have limited access to computers and wifi. The PBP also has a text-messaging service to keep participants abreast of meetings and project updates. Building on the old-school thread, Ramage noted that Future City Glasgow did a pen-and-paper participatory mapping project and found, to the organizers' surprise, that some lower-income citizens wouldn't go into city center because they saw it as so different from where they lived. With Britain set to vote on a Brexit tomorrow, the conversation dove into how to serve under-resourced migrants to urban areas. In many developing countries, Saleh elaborated, migrants move to cities seasonally. While there, they work for 12 or more hours per day. Governments are reluctant to provide services to this transient-but-fixed population in cities like Dhaka, Bangladesh where BRAC is based. Consequently, it's difficult to organize and build community in these groups. BRAC started bKash, a mobile financial service, three years ago that lets migrants to send money home through their phones. Over 95 percent of Banglidashis have cell phones, but only 20 percent have a formal bank account. bKash, said Saleh, is "enormously popular, like a wildfire": With 20 million subscribers, it's set to become second largest mobile financial services company in the world (behind Kenya's mPesa). To Saleh, mobile banking gives poor people more liquidity, more freedoms, and thus more power to organize. Jenviev Azzolin's WeHost engages migrants on the her homefront. The Canadian service is an "Airbnb for refugees" that lets Canadian citizens host government-sponsored refugees in their homes. "WeHost empowers anyone to take action by signing up," Azzolin enthused, noting that a number of Canadians have written to her to say "thank you, it feels like I'm doing something about the refugee crisis." So far, 1,000 hosts have accepted some of the 25,000 refugees that have migrated to Canada. Families comprise the majority of participants, and are vetted by WeHost and oriented by a 60-person volunteer network before accepting guests.
How can your smartphone shape the social fabric of cities? The New Cities Foundation selected ten "Global Urban Innovators," individuals whose tech companies boost quality of life in their home cities and regions. On Tuesday, three speakers from those winning companies shared their ideas with New Cities Summit attendees: Steven Ramage, Strategy director, What3words. What3words provides an address for everyone. The mapping service distills the complexity of GIS coordinates by dividing the entire surface of the globe into three-by-three meter squares and assigning each square an easy-to-remember word sequence. According to the UN Development fund, four billion people don't have a formal address. Poor addressing has a massive impact: If UPS could save one mile per driver the company would save $50 million per day, Ramage explained. What3words' 57 trillion squares are for those with postal addresses, too: This reporter plugged in The Architect's Newspaper's New York City address. On What3words, the paper's at "Tricks.funds.fluid": A universal address. https://vimeo.com/112227335 "Words mean you can spot errors, which is much harder to do with GPS coordinates," Ramage noted. The service has been used for emergency response disaster relief in remote locations. What3words facilitates planning the placement of hydrants, pylons, or other structures that don't have have an address but can now be tagged to one. As a free app for citizens, What3words is used in favelas in Rio de Janeiro: every household has an address in Portuguese. Mostly rural Mongolia has adopted the service as its postal system. Currently, the service operates in 10 languages, and will be available in 20 by the end of 2016. Chinmay Aggarwal, Co-founder and cheif technology officer, Jugnoo. Aggarwal founded auto rickshaw rideshare service Jugnoo in November 2014 with Samar Singla in Chandigarh, India. Auto rickshaws, or tuk tuks, are a common mode of transit in Indian cities, but are underused because hailing them can be challenging, prices are mutable, and their presence on the streets is not always predictable. Drivers are usually migrants from rural areas who typically earn less than $8.00 per day driving. Aggarwal and Singla developed a ride-hailing app à la Uber. Crucially, Jugnoo's founders gave auto rickshaw drivers smartphones to be able to access the app and receive riders. The platform can be accessed through Facebook if riders or drivers don't have enough space on their phone to download it. Today, there are over 10,000 drivers on the platform, and their income, on average, has doubled. Added income, Aggarwal explained, has a trickle-out effect: Drivers send money home to their families in rural areas, strengthening the social fabric of their home communities while improving transit infrastructure in their adopted cities. The success of Jugnoo has prompted its founders to pilot a Postmates-esque delivery program in Chandigarh where tuk tuk drivers deliver goods to consumers. Niamh Kirwann, Marketing and communications manager, FoodCloud. Founded in 2012, FoodCloud is a two-part response to the astronomical cost of food waste and food need in 27 counties in Ireland and parts of the U.K. FoodCloud is an app connects stores and supermarket's food waste to nonprofits that serve meals as part of their programming. To the collective shock of those in the conference room, Kirwann noted that 30 percent of all food grown worldwide is wasted, and 550 trillion liters of water is used to grow food that's not eaten. A message in app goes from one of 500 participating markets to 1,100 nonprofit providers, letting nonprofits know what and how much food local markets have to give away. It's a win-win: Stores save money on food disposal cost, and nonprofits save money on food provision. So far, FoodCloud has diverted 1352 tons of food, enabling nonprofits to serve 2.9 million meals.
AN reports from New Cities Summit in Montreal, an international conference on new technology that shapes cities
Today in Montréal, 600 designers, architects, geographers, technology experts, entrepreneurs, and policymakers convened for the New Cities Summit, a forward-looking conference hosted by the New Cities Foundation. The Summit tries, through the lens of technology, to put a finer point "innovation," "urban change," and "economic growth," often-nebulous concepts that nevertheless drive the design and governance of our cities. Speakers, panels, round-tables, and workshops focus on using new technology to engage visitors in "thirdspaces" (where people neither work nor live), boosting the sharing economy through new (and old) means of engagement, finding solutions to a global affordable housing crisis, placemaking, and public art are held over a two-day period, followed by site visits around Montréal. The Architect's Newspaper (AN) attended the summit when it was held in Dallas, in 2014, but this is the first time AN is attending the event internationally. Follow @archpaper in Montréal for live updates on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat (archpaper). The opening panel, "The Age of Urban Tech," moderated by Estelle Métayer, founder and principal of Competia, featured four city leaders in the private and public sectors: Chiara Corazza, managing director of the Greater Paris Investment Agency; Anil Menon, president of Smart and Connected Cities and the deputy chief globalization officer at Cisco (a conference sponsor); Alexandre Taillefer, managing partner of XPND Capital and the founder of Téo Taxi; and Ivy Taylor, the mayor of San Antonio, Texas. Métayer opened with a broad question on the role of technology in the 21st century city, and panelists, despite their mostly tech-centric backgrounds, were keen on both the appeal of (and limits to) apps and hacks. At each fork in the discussion, the panelists turned back to the importance of using technology to enhance existing communities. "The best and worst thing is that people are focused on technology. [The] focus should be on urban experience, not on the technology. Technology should be invisible and should maintain and enhance the quality of life," Menon noted. Speaking of her city, Taylor explained that "people are the heart of cities we serve." San Antonio, population 1.4 million, is seventh largest city in the U.S. and is 60 percent Latino. She emphasized that closing the digital divide, especially though education and neighborhood engagement, is key to not leaving the most vulnerable residents behind, especially in an an era where cities compete directly with one another for resources and capital. Building on Taylor's observations, Taillerfer underscored the importance of adapting technology to current users with a homegrown example: A taxi company on east side of Montréal receives 90 percent of its calls via an old-fashioned phone. In that district, only twenty percent of residents use smartphones. Education and access can bring users up to speed on smartphones, but the current means of calling the taxi must be consistent with the current knowledge base. Taillefer urged participants to be wary of the role of corporations in shaping public tech projects. "A lot of innovations require a lot of capital, so cities have to be careful about the deals [we] sign with corporations. Tech," she declared, "is fun, but we need to take into account the lives of citizens." Sharing information transparently is key to having that fun and sustaining trust. Taylor noted that when body cameras for police officers were introduced in San Antonio, at first there wasn't enough communication about the new technology. Consequently, public misunderstandings and resentments arose around the cameras. "We're still on front end of conveying public what access to information will be, how quickly information will be processed," said Taylor. For all the conversation around anti-union sentiment in tech, Menon grounded the discussion in the importance of sustaining local entrepreneurs while engaging labor unions. "Unions represent the current middle class who are deeply suspicious of new tech because it's seen as replacing jobs." Public and private-sector unions, he argued, need to establish new ways to work with corporations. He cited Germany as an example of a country that has both strong economic growth and union representation. For all the barriers, there was profound optimism among panelists that cities will look radically different in the next five to ten years because of new technologies. Corazza, Taylor, and Taillerfer highlighted public transit innovations as a key locus of innovation (Taillerfer: "I dream of the day you pay $250 per month for access to multimodal, anti–private car transit for everything) while Menon cited video internet and, surprisingly, liquid biopsy, a form of data collection to detect and treat cancer. Who knew?
[ Editor's Note: The following reader comment was left on archpaper.com in response to the editorial “New Cities and Old” (AN 04_07.16.2014_SW). Opinions expressed in letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the opinions or sentiments of the newspaper. AN welcomes reader letters, which could appear in our regional print editions. To share your opinion, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. ] Whether it be formal arts districts or vibrant arts offerings spread across a metropolitan area, community support of the arts is key to quality of life for downtowns, suburbs, and connected rural communities. Jill Diaz Director of Development at Carolina Ballet
Nearly a month has passed now since the more than 800 people from all of the globe who attended this year's New Cities Summit in Dallas, Texas, packed up their bags, and returned home. Each is now equipped—if the Summit proved its purpose—with a slew of practical ideas on how to positively transform the urban environment, or at least a more robust list of contacts in the fields of government, business, and urban design. For those of you who missed it, the New Cities Foundation has just released an ebook recapitulating what was discussed in its many keynote speeches, workshops, and panel discussions. The foundation has also produced a four-minute highlights movie (embedded below), which captures some of the enthusiastic spirit of this international gathering of urban thinkers and doers, which is now in its third year. The Architect's Newspaper was a media partner for the Summit this year and I was on hand to moderate a panel on the subject of "Mobility and the Urban Form." The panel speakers included Mark Dixon, founder of Regus, a company that sets up remote worksites; Alex Krieger of NBBJ and Harvard Graduate School of Design; Harold Madi, Director of Urban Design in Toronto; and Lorenzo Reffreger, Head of Sales and Systems at Bombardier Transportation. The discussion was lively and each of the speakers was very eloquent about their particular areas of expertise. Together they offered a variety of perspectives on the transportation challenges that sprawling urban environments face as their populations grow and offered a number of possible solutions. Dixon, for example, raised the possibility that long commutes may be taken out of the picture altogether by the sort of remote workspaces his company builds. Madi said that in Toronto they have found a carrot and stick approach works best to encourage higher density development. Krieger pointed out that here in the U.S., in spite of what urbanism blogs tell us, the majority of urban residents are not fleeing suburbs in order to cram themselves in 400-square-foot apartments. He also said that the automobile isn't going anywhere. Reffreger said that Bombardier had in fact seen an increase in urban rail rolling stock sales in North America, and explained how the design of rail cars varies greatly from city to city and culture to culture. Each year as part of the Summit the New Cities Foundation hosts its AppMyCity! contest, which seeks out the world's best new urban app. This year the prize went to Peerby, an Amsterdam-based web platform and app that enables people to share and borrow things from their neighbors—a blender, a bicycle, a cup of sugar—in under 30 minutes. Users post what they want to borrow and neighbors get a push notification that they can respond to with a single click. Upon receiving the prize at the Winspear Opera House, Peerby CEO and founder Daan Weddepohl cheered and announced: "The world is ready for sharing!" This is just a taste of the sort of discussions and solutions that were shared at the Summit. To get more of an idea of the quality and scope of of the discourse check out the Summit highlight reel.
This year, the Europe-based New Cities Foundation is bringing its annual New Cities Summit to the Dallas Arts District, from June 17 to 19. Eight hundred global thought leaders will convene at the Winspear Opera House to listen to speakers, engage in workshops, and take advantage of world-class networking opportunities. The Architect’s Newspaper is one of the summit media partners. AN Southwest editor Aaron Seward recently spoke to Mathieu Lefevre, the Executive Director of the New Cities Foundation, about what the organization has on tap for this year’s summit, whose theme is Re-imagining Cities: Transforming the 21st Century Metropolis. Aaron Seward: Let's start by getting some background on the New Cities Summit. What is it? Why did it start? And what does it hope to achieve? Mathieu Lefevre: The New Cities Summit started when the New Cities Foundation was set up, in 2010. It’s a non-profit whose mission is to make cities better. The event is aimed at shaping the global conversation and adding to the creative thought leadership surrounding how to shape what we are calling the Century of Cities. We held the first summit in 2012 in Paris; then we went to São Paulo, Brazil, in 2013; and this year we’re coming to Texas. Why has the summit decided to come to Dallas this year? First of all, there is often a herd mentality when it comes to these events. They tend to happen in very similar cities, like New York or Singapore. We’ve always wanted to go to unexplored terrain, to find cities that are full of potential but are facing major challenges. And that’s why we’re interested in Dallas. It’s one of the most dynamic cities in the world. I read somewhere that the GDP of Dallas is larger than that of the United Arab Emirates with all their oil. As much media reporting has covered in recent weeks, it’s extraordinary in terms of its economy and diversity of jobs, but it also faces a lot of challenges. Traffic, for example, is a major issue in this extremely car-dependent city, though that is slowly changing. I also like that Dallas is a place that is eager to tell its story again. That was our inspiration for the theme of this year’s summit: Re-imaging Cities. The theme came from conversations we had in Dallas, and I’m interested in bringing our community there because it’s a city that most of them don’t know. The summit will be held in the Dallas Arts District. Why this choice of location? What is the relationship between culture and the subject matter discussed at the summit? The first reason is that it’s a spectacular venue. The participants are going to be absolutely wowed by the arts district as an emerging neighborhood, but also by the building itself, the Winspear Opera House (Foster + Partners, 2009). More broadly, many cities around the world—like Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi, Dallas, and other cities in North America— are betting on culture as a transformative strategy. Dallas is attempting to tell its story again, and to re-imagine itself, partly through its Arts District. I’m a Parisian. I’m sorry to say I had no idea that there was this kind of culture in Texas. Between the Dallas Arts District—the Winspear and the other cultural facilities on that street—and what’s going on in Fort Worth, that’s world-class cultural facilities. The mayors of Fort Worth and Dallas will be on hand to speak. What other notable figures are participating in the summit? What I’m really excited about and very proud of is the combination of well known visible figures that come and share their wisdom and insights. We’ve got seven or eight mayors, from Spain, Asia, Africa, and North America of course. Also we’ve got very well known figures, like the architect Daniel Libeskind; the CEO of Bombardier, Lutz Bertling; the CEO of the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, Sean Donohue; and the executive director of the Mori Foundation, Hiroo Ichikawa, which is one of the most powerful organizations in Japan. We’ve got some great young leaders coming, like Aaron Hurst of the Taproot Foundation & Imperative; and the contemporary Chinese artist Huang Rui. Then there are the speakers from our WhatWorks series, who each get six minutes to tell us about a project that has worked in their city. And of course we’ve got our three AppMyCity! finalists. We’re really excited about meeting the creators of these apps. There is one called Djump, a peer-to-peer car sharing service; one called Peerby that allows people to share household items, like blenders or anything else; and then there’s Social Cyclist, from New York, an app that encourages users to offer preferred bike routes. What are some of the key topics that will be discussed? We’re going to map out a future of what we call the Century of Cities: What are the 10 drivers that are going to shape the future of cities? Then we have more technical and pragmatic sessions: How can technology help cities reach their green targets? We’re going to look at emerging concepts in urban design, such as happiness, wellness, and the shared economy. These are just starting to emerge, and we’re going to explore them with many of the people who helped start them. We’re going to talk about mobility. We’re going to talk about entrepreneurship. We’re going to talk about the role of the airport in city strategy. Were going to talk about where the money is going to come from. We’re going to talk about participation, transparency, and citizen engagement in urban democracy. We’re going to talk about healthcare. Of course, a lot of the conversation is going to happen outside of our programs, in the interactions between our many invited attendees. When you bring 800 people from around the world together who have a passion about cities it’s going to result in stimulating creative conversation. I hope it will have tangible results for Dallas and other cities around the world.