Have a smartphone and tape measure? Map Phila.'s disability access this Sunday

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Thursday, April 27, 2017
 A handicapped parking sign
A handicapped parking sign seen in a parking lot

CENTER CITY (WPVI) -- Alanna Raffel wanted to do something significant to celebrate her 30th birthday.

What she'll do could have an impact for many birthdays.

Raffel, an occupational therapist, is hosting a mapping event on Sunday, April 30, to find out what is and isn't handicapped accessible in center city Philadelphia.

She's worked with disabled clients for years, but as she's become more active on advocacy, she's realized the challenges her clients go through.

Raffel encouraged organizations to hold events at accessible venues, only to find out, "not only are there few accessible places, but it is hard to find them," she tells Action News.

She found most online resources aren't up-to-date, accurate, or user-friendly.

"Just as I check what time an event starts or whether a restaurant is in my price range, people who use mobility devices such as wheelchairs and walkers should be able to check whether they can enter a particular space," says Raffel.

Check out the event's Facebook page.

Everyone should be at Field House at 1150 Filbert Street in Center City by 2 P.M. on Sunday.

Volunteers will then break into teams to collect accessibility data of the area from 5th to 20th Streets, and from Callowhill to Spruce Streets.

They'll look at restaurants, bars, hotels, and more.

It will be done through the Access Earth app.

Participants will have to download the app.

Once they enter an assigned location, the app will ask for some facts - the width and steps at the entrance, bathroom, parking, and functionality of the space.

Entrances should be at least 32 inches wide to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers.

And Raffel invites everyone, whether they do or don't take part in Sunday's mapping party, to use Access Earth to add more data.

"You can do this anytime you go out to dinner or to a theater, or people can host mapping events in their own neighborhoods," she says.

She hopes encouraging the awareness of accessible and inaccessible places will encourage business owners to consider opening their spaces to those with disabilities.

"I love Philadelphia," Raffel says.

"We can change the world to be more inclusive of everyone."