23 November 2018

When geographic information systems are used to meet disability needs

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Thomas Cléchet, a young engineer working as an FTTH project manager at Axione, uses geographic information system (GIS) software in his daily job. This professional experience helped him win the 24-hour GIS competition run by the company Esri.

 

His operational story map, which focuses on urban accessibility for people with reduced mobility, is being promoted as part of the European Disability Employment Week.

First, take GIS software, which is used to collect, store, process, analyse, manage and present spatial and geographical data. Second, take Esri (Environmental Systems Research Institute), the American company that invented GIS in 1969. And third, take Thomas, a graduate of the Polytech Tours engineering school who has been working as an FTTH (fibre to the home) project manager at Axione since April 2018. Combine all three and you get a wonderful professional project that serves societal needs. 

 

Thomas Cléchet, 23, completed an internship at Axione in the spring and was subsequently recruited by the company. Since then, he has been using GIS software on a daily basis. “We’re working on fibre rollout in rural areas of the Hauts-de-France region, in villages with a population of a few hundred or thousand, and the software enables me to design and size the networks,” says Thomas.

 

Teamwork

 

In October 2018, Thomas won the 24-hour GIS competition held by Esri during its annual conference. Every year, the Californian software supplier brings together in Paris the community of French-speaking users of its GIS software as part of an event that has been held for 20-plus years. “During the conference, Esri gives students 24 hours to complete a project using all of its software packages,” explains Thomas. “This year’s topic was accessibility for people with reduced mobility. I worked together with Maéva Gaudin, who is studying geotechnical engineering at the UniLaSalle engineering school. We were supported by a tutor, Abdel Ouedraogo, an IT consultant at the company Magéllium. I registered for the competition when I was still at university, and while I was doing my internship at Axione, the company gave me two days off so that I could take part,” he adds.

 

Tool to support decision making

 

Within 24 hours, the small team put together a pretty smart story map – a mini interactive website combining maps and text, photo, video and audio content. “Maéva had a good grasp of the software, and as I had been using the tool at Axione, I felt comfortable with its features. So we were able to produce something fairly advanced.”

 

Their story map, entitled “La rue, l'ennemie de la mobilité réduite” (Streets, the enemy of reduced mobility), won over the jury with its operational focus. It includes an interactive map that can be used to find out what building, facility or location is accessible in Paris for a particular type of disability (whether a visual, hearing or mobility impairment), as well as factual information drawing attention to the importance of the subject and to the legislative context (public buildings are obliged to be accessible). It also shows how routes taken in cities by people with visual impairments or with reduced mobility could be shortened and made safer by carrying out minor works.      

 

“We wanted to produce a tool that would support decision-making for elected officials, showing through real examples that it’s possible to adapt space cost-effectively in a way that makes life easier for people with disabilities,” states Thomas. The young engineer, proud of having won this prestigious competition, says that the exercise has made him aware of the importance of the issue for those concerned.  Moreover, he welcomes the fact that the data processing software used in his work helps inform the general public about the accessibility of public places for people with disabilities – something that is a major national cause.