Raul Krauthausen

Ashoka Fellow
Berlin, Germany
Fellow Since 2010


This profile was prepared when Raul Krauthausen was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2010.
The New Idea
Raul built a crowdsourced online map of wheelchair-accessible and inaccessible places, to provide a simple and efficient way toward better inclusion for wheelchair users in Germany. The online map, (www.wheelmap.org), serves the mobility of impaired communities in several distinct ways: First, it provides the first guide to wheelchair accessible places in Germany, and second, it provides a new and effective platform for creating greater public awareness and social mobilization around issues related to increasing the integration of disabled persons into everyday life in Germany. Raul believes that inaccessibility is not only a problem for people with impaired mobility, but it is an issue that affects all people and their right to an inclusive society. He challenges a discriminatory system that creates separate spaces for people with disabilities throughout their lives. Raul builds his approach on a simple insight: If wheelchair users know which public places are accessible, they are more likely to go there, engage in public life, and realize their full potential.

Raul puts the solution into the hands of everyone: His open data, OpenStreetMap mapping platform, with 40,000 active contributors worldwide, allows every user to tag public places as accessible, inaccessible, or partly accessible to wheelchairs. Thus, Raul radically simplifies the information about wheelchair accessibility. While existing certification schemes too often provide irrelevant and overly detailed data in user-unfriendly ways, wheelmap.org limits complexity and focuses on the relevant accessibility information. This information is easily searchable; it can be sorted and adopted to individual needs and shared with other users. Due to the fact that the user enters the information, in a similar fashion to Wikipedia, everyone helps to grow this powerful tool from the bottom up. By creating open and standardized interfaces to the data, Raul enables third parties to create lists, applications, and other services on top of his service. For example, identifying all educational facilities in Germany without wheelchair access by simply plugging in data from other sources, or lobbying a cinema chain for better accessibility by making their inaccessibility public.

Wheelmap is in the start-up phase, having launched in March 2010 as a beta platform after 12 months of intensive preparation. The functionality will support open source competitions, call-in services, tagging parties, and partnerships. Raul expects wheelmap to be a market leader and cover its own costs through income streams from wheelchair manufacturers or large public events within a year. Thanks to the worldwide reach of OpenStreetMap, Raul intends to spread not only throughout Germany, but to other countries as well.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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