For 13.2 million people with mobility impairments in North America, everyday instances like visits to the local coffee shop present unexpected challenges: lighting that’s too bright, no brail on the restroom doors, and poor navigation for wheelchairs.
PwC’s client, AXS Labs, founded by Jason DaSilva, an award winning filmographer that suddenly found himself relegated to a wheelchair due to multiple sclerosis. Recognizing his everyday was turned upside down, Jason founded AXS Labs to tell the stories of those with mobility impairments.
DaSilva and AXS Lab launched AXS Map, a crowdsourcing platform backed by users who rate the accessibility of locations like train stations, grocery stores, and restaurants. AXS Map’s goal is to provide better accessibility—meaning more places for more people.
It’s a problem many of us face, but for people with disabilities, the challenges are compounded. Imagine the frustration of meeting friends for lunch at a popular new cafe, only to find you can’t reach the register when it’s time to pay, the cream for your coffee is inaccessible, and the floor is decorated with shag rugs that make it hard to reach the table.
People with mobility challenges lauded the idea of AXS Map, but the platform’s technology backbone wasn’t cutting it: many visitors left the site because they couldn’t figure it out. Alongside AXS Lab, PwC’s digital team put end-users at the heart of the design, making the platform user-friendly to quickly engage new audiences worldwide.
Using our BXT Works approach — a fast, sprint-style process combining business strategy, user experience design and technology — we relaunched AXS Map to give every person the information they need to navigate the world.
Business strategy: Since AXS Map’s original 2011 launch, design thinking and human-centered technology advanced, but the web app didn’t use current design practices. Nor did it place the end user at the heart of the experience. We interviewed users with mobility-related disabilities to better understand their frustrations navigating public spaces. Our follow-up questions centered around specific pain points in the web app: confusion over the complicated rating system, complex instructions and an unclear purpose.
AXS Map could also impact how businesses operate, as many organizations may not know their accessibility shortfalls. As web app traffic expands, businesses will increasingly realize users with mobility related disabilities, their friends and families represent a significant market opportunity. The US Department of Labor estimates Americans with disabilities spend $175 billion annually on discretionary items and experiences*.
User Experience: If a design is too complicated it requires an instruction manual, it’s broken. AXS Map needed to simplify. The team settled on a service-design approach mirroring a user’s experience with almost any venue. Working side-by-side with the AXS team and volunteers with disabilities, we recreated what can happen when a person with mobility challenges enters a typical venue. Our findings: the rating system needed to be clear, objective and uniform. Is there a ramp? Yes or no? Room for a wheelchair at all tables? Does the restroom door swing out? Ratings should be helpful and inclusive for all, from parents with strollers to people with visual impairments.
Technology: As part of the design process, AXS Lab and PwC worked closely with a software engineer and prominent disability rights advocate for their feedback. With the new design locked down, PwC’s writers, designers, coders and tech professionals brought the reimagined platform to life.
The team quickly transitioned ratings and location data from the existing AXS Map to the new web app. Then, we shifted our focus to helping reduce costs and better serving unlimited global users by porting AXS Map to a formidable cloud provider. That way, there was no limit to how much the system could scale up or down, depending on traffic.
It’s easy to forget there are a million little things happening in the background when we use a web app. AXS' new cloud platform means a more stable and seamless user experience with less crashing, glitching and freezing. As interest in AXS Map grows, the amount of data, resources and information will naturally expand. AXS is scaling to meet demand within seconds.
*Source: U.S. Department of Justice, "Customers with Disabilities Mean Business"
With the relaunch of AXS Map, millions around the world can now easily tap into a platform that equips them with the tools to better navigate a world that poses challenges for people with disabilities. Since AXS Map’s global soft-launch in May 2020, the number of searches for accessible places significantly increased — despite a global pandemic that closed millions of businesses. As users add new updated ratings each day, the number of hassle-free options for mobility-challenged individuals and their families expands. AXS volunteers also planned ‘Mapathons’ to blanket locations and drive ratings across the globe — from New York to South Carolina, and Dubai to Detroit.
Not only have reviews increased, but awareness-building coupled with easier site navigation has netted a tenfold growth in donations since launch. Plus, companies are getting serious about their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) as a way to enhance business growth and brand reputation. As they look to improve their commitment to DE&I, AXS Map can provide direct feedback on how well customers think they’re doing, too.