Civic Data Alliance

Visually Impaired and Open Data

Helping the Visually Impaired Navigate Louisville Using Open Data

The CDA hosted two CodeAcross 2015 events in Louisville on February 21 and March 21. Dedicated volunteers converged on the Urban Design Studio and the American Printing House for the Blind for two days of OpenStreetMap learning and editing, in support of the American Printing House for the Blind’s ‘Nearby Explorer’ app. Nearby Explorer is an advanced GPS solution recently released for Android smartphones by the American Printing House for the blind. The app gives the visually impaired and the blind audible cues about their immediate surroundings, and directions to places they would like to go.

OSM Building Import Progress

During CodeAcross, The Civic Data Alliance took newly open GIS data (precise locations of buildings and address information) from the city of Louisville and organized volunteers to load it into Open Street Map so the American Printing House can use it to improve Nearby Explorer.

OSM Building Import Progress

We taught volunteers how to use OSM’s Task Manager to load buildings and addresses, one neighborhood at a time, and made initial progress toward adding the data for the entire city into OpenStreetMap. There is still a lot of work to be done to get all the buildings and addresses loaded, so please join us for Part 2 of the effort Saturday, March 21st at the American Printing House for the Blind.

For this event there was actually zero programming needed. All that was needed is a laptop, following written and spoken instructions, and an attention to detail. Any other skills are just a bonus. It was a great way to build our brigade with some prep work by our leaders.


Between February 16 and May 15, 20+ people have collaboratively worked on over 550 areas of the city, for an estimated 410+ hours of work. We are now finished!

OSM Building Import Progress

“This is simply amazing that it shows up so quickly. I am amazed to see the power of CDA and what a group of dedicated people can actually accomplish. It is amazing how much actually got done in one day. We can easily tell!” - Larry at APH

“I’m amazed! I was testing on a bus around the time the CDA added the data north of Brownsboro Rd, and when it showed up, I thought I was running the wrong build of our app. Should have checked my email before trying to confirm I was running the right build!” - Rob at APH

We also had some massive help from an expert OSM editor named Sam Wallingford, an engineering student at UVa. He started work in April and over the next month completed more areas than everyone else combined. Thanks so much Sam!

The CDA is looking at helping other brigades import their data, and may run a workshop this September. We are also prepping other city data to load, including parks and natural areas, streams, alleys, cemeteries, parking, and historic markers. We will continue to push the city to release more data to load, like traffic signs, traffic signals, 1-foot contours, parcels, and impervious surfaces.

CDA Work Before the Event

The core CDA put in about 140 volunteer hours to prep for the project and event. Here’s what we did. If your brigade were to do it, it would likely take 40 hours of prep with our guidance (please contact us for help!).

  1. Identify the need from APH during our December meetup.
  2. Work with LOJIC and Metro Louisville to add an appropriate open data license to portal and FTP site.
  3. Work with the OSM import community mailing lists to get approval for our import.
  4. Create OSM Wiki pages that show qualitative and quantitative data analysis, tagging, reconciliation plan, and user accounts process.
  5. Research the best methods for importing data properly into OSM: JOSM, Task Manager.
  6. Write a step-by-step Contributor Guide that can volunteers can follow, showing all scenarios
  7. Run geospacial analysis on the data to merge building footprints with address data.
  8. Create multiple OSM import files using a fork of existing code from NOLA’s import.
  9. Contact NOLA import lead to ensure our process and data is good.
  10. Create a Task Manager job after getting OSM admin access.
  11. Generate a JSON file with areas of the city broken into 575 census block groups for use in Task Manager.
  12. Core CDA members load some areas of the city in preparation for the event.
  13. Organize, promote, and run Code Across event with our wonderful attendees!

Tweets During CodeAcross Part 2

Tweets During CodeAcross

Collaborating and learning how to put buildings and addresses into Open Street Map.

Resident Open Street Map expert Jeff McAdams (has the most edits in the city) discussing the details of our building import.

Listening to Larry Skutchan from the American Printing House talk about how the data can help his Nearby Explorer app users.

Brian Herbert from Ushahidi (middle) lending his expertise, adding mapping data to Louisville.


Links to more info

This project is maintained by civicdata with image compression using guetzli