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Accessibility Driven by Participatory Data Collection in the City of Helsinki

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

The city of Helsinki is well known for its commitment to improve the urban experience for its residents and visitors as evidenced by its recently launched accessibility guidelines 2022-2025. Their challenge, however, is finding the right data to support audit and analysis of hidden accessibility issue, especially in relation to older citizens.

Fig: City Center Helsinki

Device to Make Participatory Data Collection Easier

In response the Forum Virium Team worked with a User Experience expert to develop a specialised feedback device for participatory data collection. At first glance to the average user, the device seems a little chunky, but it is a specific design feature to ensure it can be used during harsh Helsinki weather when users will be wearing large thermal gloves and mittens. Chunky buttons and visual descriptors ensure each button can be easily understood at a distance by older adults and pressed even during heavy snow. Something that can’t be done with a smart phone.

The six buttons record 1) slippery conditions, 2) dangerous areas, 3) unclean places, 4) poor lighting and two more positive options 5) happy places and 6) green areas. The devices will be in libraries and other public places where older citizens can collect the devices and undertake ‘data walks.’

Fig: Participatory Data Collection Device

Improvements to the device are ongoing, recently the team have undertaken IoT firmware modifications, extended the devices battery life, and fixed GPS connection issues. Plus, naming and use details will be continued to be developed in conjunction with the original co-creation workshop participants.

Data Visualisation and Use

The data collected by the devices can be viewed by both citizens and by urban planners and city administrators using the URBANAGE platform. This platform is an ecosystem of data based apps and services with the shared focus of supporting urban planners in co-creating more age-friendly cities. In the platform, users can add more information under ‘Participatory Data Collection’ a web-based version of the device. Using the ‘Big Data Analytics’ button people can view all the data points in the URBANAGE PLATFORM.

Fig: Beta version of the platform Big Data Analytics at

The map which is still in development phase (using existing open data) will be used by citizens and urban planners to better understand spaces in the city. How many issues there are, their category, are they open or closed, as well as time taken to address the issue. A heatmap view will also quickly show where the most problems are.

The information collected about happy and green places (options 5 and 6 on the data collection device) will be visualised, both in 2D and 3D so both planners and older citizens can see where there are enjoyable places in the city.

Videos and demonstrators of the data collection device and data dashboard will be coming soon. Subscribe for updates in the footer of the URBANAGE website:

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1 Comment

Ermira Pirdeni
Ermira Pirdeni
Apr 25, 2023

Great models for an aging society!

Longevity shapes the future.

Thank you for sharing, especially for cities where the investment on aging is zero.

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