Category Archives: Current Events

You’re invited to the 2021 Local Chapters and Communities Congress

The LCCWG is excited to invite OpenStreetMap local chapters and community organisers and leaders to the 2021 Local Chapters and Communities Congress!

Local Chapters & Communities Congress poster – please share widely!

The LCCC 2021 is a virtual event where leaders and members of various OSM communities, whether they are officially recognized Local Chapters of the OSM Foundation or just a regular user group of OSM mappers, come together to share stories and learn from each other.

Last year, 35 community leaders came together from more than 20 different countries and the LCCWG is asking you to spread the word far and wide so that even more communities come to exchange knowledge and build networks this year!

The LCCC takes place online on 06 November from 1200 – 1500 UTC and you can find more details on the OSM wiki, here.

Celebrating Earth and Space in Maps

April brings two international commemorative days that offer fun ideas for mapping. Earth Day on April 22 demonstrates support for environmental protection, and the less well-known International Day of Human Space Flight on April 12, which was created by the United Nations fifty years after Yuri Gagarin’s first human space flight.

These celebrations are intricately intertwined in the famous “Earthrise” image, which helped spark global environmental consciousness and led to the first Earth Day in 1970. The increasing availability of earth observation imagery since then has directly helped OpenStreetMap for the entire globe.

The Earth from the Moon, by NASA

There are plenty of opportunities for mapping related to Earth Day. You could map natural areas, reserves and parks, recycling facilities, and many other kinds of features mentioned in the Environmental OSM project.

And for the International Day of Human Space Flight, while OSM doesn’t map in outer space (yet), you can map terrestrial features related to space flight, like launch sites, space-related facilities, historic sites and museums, or even just things named for outer space.

Mapping Earth

The Environmental OSM project has a lot of great ideas, from the local to the global.

You could take a look at recycling-related tags and features, such as public recycling bins or recycling centres, and see if any are missing around you.

You could help map your favorite green space or natural area, whether it’s wilderness, a park, or something else. National parks and nature reserves are among many included in boundary=protected_area, or you could try mapping land use, wetlands, or mangrove forests. There are also clean energy facilities like wind power — are there any near you that aren’t mapped? Other ideas include cycling and hiking trails, or you could look to see if any polluting industries near you need to be mapped.

A windmill in the ocean

The Tasking Manager also has projects from various nonprofits related to environmental issues, such as mapping places with climate change-related risk.

Or you can take a look at places related to the environment: the United Nations Environment Programme is headquartered in Nairobi, Greta Thunberg’s first School Climate Strike took place at the Swedish Riksdag, and there’s even an Earth Day monument in Orlando, Florida.

Mapping Space Flight

There are many Earth-bound options for mapping space flight! OSM has tags for spaceports and launchpads and Wikipedia has a list of rocket launch sites including latitude and longitude coordinates. There are spaceports around the world too (via Overpass). You could take a look at some near you and make sure everything is mapped and tagged properly around them — or see if any are missing around the world. (Make sure to follow local tagging guidelines, though.)

A NASA launchpad

You also could make sure planetariums or space museums near you are mapped.

And there are some more amusing spaceflight-related places: for example, the Fremont Rocket sculpture in Seattle, USA and pubs like the Rocket in London and in Jena, Germany.

And of course, there are planty things related to non-human space flight, such as the UFO incident in Roswell, New Mexico, USA where there’s the International UFO Museum & Research Center, the Rendelsham Forest UFO landing sites in the UK and the flying saucer-shaped water tower Nave do ET (ET’s Ship) in Varginha, Brazil.

the Fremont Rocket in Seattle

Let us know what you map — and tell us about any upcoming days you think would be interesting for an OSM blog post.

Photo credits:

Earthrise: William Anders/NASA, public domain
Windmill: © Hans Hillewaert / CC BY-SA 4.0
Space Shuttle: NASA, public domain
Fremont Rocket: damnitgetmybeer/Mapillary, CC BY-SA 4.0

How Joe Biden’s Ancestors helped OpenStreetMap, and OpenStreetMap helps our descendants

The Blewitt clan of Ireland is proud that one of their kin, Joe Biden, was elected the next President of the United States. His Irish roots are well known on both sides of the Atlantic. Before Biden’s great-great-great-grandfather Edward Blewitt moved his family to America to escape the Irish Famine, Edward and his brother James were surveyors whose work shaped Irish maps and municipalities, supported livelihoods, and has even been used in OpenStreetMap today.

Edward and James worked on two foundational Irish mapping projects in the 1830s–40s, the Ordnance Survey and the Griffith’s Valuation. In 1838, James corrected an error in the Ordnance survey’s calculation system that had been missed by many of the brightest mathematical minds of the day in Ireland and Britain. In the late 1840s, Edward managed public works programs that built roads, improved farming through drainage, and gave work to people suffering through the Potato Famine.

Image of the First Edition Six Inch to the Mile maps
First Edition Six Inch to the Mile maps

Their surveying work has been valuable even 150 years later. The OpenStreetMap community used the “First Edition” Ordnance Survey maps the brothers worked on to map all the townlands on the island of Ireland (see “Mapping Ireland’s 61,000 administrative boundaries” at State of the Map 2016). There are approximately 61,000 townlands in Ireland, the great majority of which have been mapped thanks to a donation of out of copyright maps from Glucksman Map Library, Trinity College Dublin, and Bodleian Libraries, University of OxfordOpenStreetMap Ireland isn’t stopping there. They are now attempting to map all the buildings in Ireland and welcome all contributors.

image of historic imagery used for editing modern day OpenStreetMap data
Historic imagery used for editing modern day OpenStreetMap data

OpenStreetMap’s freeform tagging scheme allows people to map what’s important to them. And people are mapping the historical and heritage features they care about. You can explore OpenStreetMap’s coverage of historical features on interactive maps on the HistOSM and Historical Objects websites. If you want to use OpenStreetMap data like this, it’s all available to everyone. If you see something missing, please open up your favourite OpenStreetMap editor and fix the map!

OpenStreetMap is becoming the de facto source of map data for many services and organisations, so we can help preserve our shared human heritage for years to come. Who knows, in 150 years, maybe OpenStreetMap data you enter today will be useful to someone?

The best world map for accessibility

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities is observed every December 3rd, and OpenStreetMap marks this day by saying “Our aim is to be the best world map for accessibility”. OpenStreetMap has long been a resource to map and share open data on features related to disabilities.

An image of a wheelchair user with text describing navigation issues. "Which public places are accessible for people with disabilities?" "Accessibility information is hard to find and not available in mainstream directories & apps" "This makes partaking in daily life difficult"
slide by: WheelMap, photo by: Andi Weiland, gesellschaftsbilder.de

We asked community members gathered on the accessibility mailing list about why and how OpenStreetMap is so useful.

Jean-Marie Favreau of the Université Clermont Auvergne explained…

The strength of OpenStreetMap is that it allows anyone to contribute accessibility data, whether they are local authorities, user associations, or individual contributors. Being a global project, it facilitates the sharing of observations and learnings of how the equipment, habits and practices of accessibility vary in different coutnries. Finally, the data is in a commons and managed by a community, so it more accurately reflects the reality of the territories it maps.

Nick Bolton of the University of Washington adds…

When people with disabilities seek out map information, they find that accessibility information is missing or doesn’t account for their personal preferences; neither companies nor government agencies are consistently creating connected pedestrian map data flexible enough to meet the diversity of pedestrian concerns expressed by people with disabilities. OpenStreetMap is well-suited to fill this informational gap as it has a flexible and democratically extensible data model, can be mapped out by locals without waiting for an agency or company to dedicate resources or take on liabilities, and all data is immediately published and examined by the public.

We are so glad OpenStreetMap fulfills this need. Read on to learn about applications for persons with disabilities, and ways to contribute to the map.

Apps for accessibility

There are many applications and research projects for persons with disabilities that use OpenStreetMap for collecting and sharing accessibility data, and for communicating that data in appropriate ways.

One of the most well known applications for tracking and sharing accessibility data is Wheelmap. Wheelmap helps find and tag the wheelchair accessibility of points of interest. There’s both an android app and iphone app. They are currently running an important campaign to map the accessibility of Covid-19 testing sites. Svenja Heinecke shared more about Wheelmap at the 2018 State of the Map.

Data on sidewalks is critical to accessible navigation.  OpenSidewalks focuses on developing tagging schemes and tools for collecting accessibility data of sidewalks, and its sister project AccessMap creates individualized accessible routing plans for people with mobility impairments. Both are projects of the Taskar Center at the University of Washington. This approach has been picked up by the Italian OpenStreetMap community in Padova and Milan, with people with disabilities, high school students, and other new mappers contributing.

And then there is navigating indoors. AccessbileMaps is a project of the Technische Universität Dresden in cooperation with the Karlsruher Institut für Technologie and focuses on indoor accessibility. They develop tools for mapping buildings with the Simple Indoor Tagging scheme, especially accessibility information, and produce applications using indoor data from OSM for blind, visually impaired and mobility impaired people to plan trips.

Touch Mapper 3d printed tactile map in use
Touch Mapper 3d printed tactile map in use

Then this data needs to be used in appropriate ways, and the creativity and innovation is inspiring.

Tactile maps help people who are blind or partially sighted navigate their surroundings. Touch Mapper uses 3D printing to create tactile maps from OSM data.

Soundscape from Microsoft Research helps users with visual disabilities to create better mental maps of their surroundings for navigation. Using audio to describe places, they can naturally and intuitively explore more and feel more comfortable and connected in new environments. The app is built on OpenStreetMap data.

Compas research project at the University Clermont Auvergne develop ACTIVmap in partnership with other academic and private sector researchers to build multimodal maps leveraging tactile, sound and haptic feedback to represent and interact with geographic information.

How can you help?

a screenshot of editing accessibility information in a StreetComplete quest
a screenshot of editing accessibility information in a StreetComplete quest

You can of course also add disability-related tags with regular OpenStreetMap editors like JOSM and iD, and mobile apps like VespucciStreetCompleteOsmAND, and Go Map!!

The OpenStreetMap wiki has a comprehensive guide to tags useful for the needs of people with disabilities. Here are just a few of the kinds of features that can be tagged in OpenStreetMap, many of these can be added quickly and easily with StreetComplete:

  • Tactile paving (tactile_paving=yes/no) and tactile information maps (information=tactile_map)
  • Designated parking spaces (amenity=parking_space + access=no + disabled=yes/designated)
  • Traffic signals with sound (traffic_signals:sound=yes/no)
  • Accessibility information for steps, such as the presence of handrails (handrail:left/right/center=yes/no), the number of steps (step_count=*) as well as whether there is a ramp (ramp=yes/no) and which kind
  • Wheelchair accessibility at shops and other amenities (wheelchair=yes/limited/no) as well as bathrooms (toilets:wheelchair=yes/no)

There are many other ways to help, documented on the wiki as well. For example, promote OpenStreetMap with friends who have a disability, and ask them how else OSM can help. You could organize a mapping party focused on mapping these kinds of features. Translate our wiki pages on disabilities to other languages. Or build new routing and rendering applications for people with disabilities.

OSM’s freeform tagging system is always evolving, if there’s something you think should be mapped in OSM, but isn’t, you can help guide that process to wider adoption.

Join us

Let us know how you’re contributing. And to connect with our community, join the list at https://lists.openstreetmap.org/listinfo/accessibility by sending an email to accessibility-subscribe@openstreetmap.org.