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Calgary online community maps city’s most accessible restaurants

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What originated as a call on social media for help finding a restaurant has turned into an online mapping movement of Calgary’s best restaurants for accessibility.

It all started when Calgary-based tech entrepreneur Travis Martin saw a tweet from Natasha Gibson to Councillor Druh Farrell asking for a list of accessible restaurants in Calgary, looking for a place to take her parents.

Martin set to work to create an online tool for Calgarians with similar accessibility concerns to find a restaurant they could dine at, or to recommend an accessibility friendly restaurant they have had positive experiences at.

Martin joined Gord Gillies and Sue Deyell on The Morning News on 770 CHQR to explain how his previous work with the “Made in Calgary” campaign helped him create the Accessible YYC online map.

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“When I saw this request to Druh, it reminded me of this map that had served this brilliant function of being able to highlight, wherever you were in the city, businesses that were local. I thought the same function could be applied to helping people identify which restaurants had really good accessibility options and which wouldn’t.

“So instead of having it where someone would reach out to us saying, ‘Hey, we’re Calgarians and we’re local,’ and we would add them to the map, we just decided to make it totally open source.”

Currently, the majority of restaurants listed on the map are friendly to patrons with mobility impairments, and Martin hopes more Calgarians add other locations that could be useful to those with hearing, visual or other kinds of impairments.

“Right now, it’s primarily focused on wheelchair accessibility, but in the case of this woman on Twitter, Natasha, she was hoping to go beyond wheelchair and look for places that maybe were not so dark or had less noise. And because it’s open source, people can add layers like that super easy.”

LISTEN: Travis Martin joins The Morning News to discuss how the Accessible YYC map came to be

Using the relatively intuitive Google Maps platform, Martin has focused on making contributing to the map as simple as possible.

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“The way to add to it would be to search for the restaurant and click the button: ‘add to map.’ It’s a really simple way for you to be able to contribute to the community and say, ‘These restaurants have been great.’”

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And Martin has been impressed with the reaction to the crowd-sourced directory.

“I was very encouraged to see the response,” Martin told 770 CHQR, noting the viral way the map has spread on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. “A lot of people were actually saying that they were going to check out these restaurants because they were on this map.

“I think it’s important for restaurant owners to be rewarded for going the extra mile and thinking about how people with accessibility concerns would experience the restaurant, even if that might not be the restaurant owner’s perception of that place or that experience.

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“It’s cool that, by making their doors open to more Calgarians, they’re going to be rewarded for it.”