“Wheelway”, the “Waze” for people with disabilities developed by a wheelchair tennis player

Dani Caverzaschi, 29, eleventh wheelchair tennis player in the world, takes part in his first Grand Slam at Roland-Garros. The Spaniard was born with leg deformities and is fighting to normalize the disability. So, in parallel with his career as a professional player, with the help of one of his sponsors, Arrow, he developed an application to move around the streets of Paris.

Meet in front of gate 50 of Roland-Garros with Dani Caverzaschi. Big smile, in sportswear on his wheelchair, the Spaniard takes his phone to launch the application “Wheelway”, still a prototype. “It’s a travel app that shows you how to get from point A to point B in a city. And it gives you different routes, as accessible as possible.” He types “National Training Center of the French Tennis Federation”. “It’s 200 meters from here, and this is the easiest route to get there.”

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On the phone, everything is displayed as on “waze”, the application for motorists: the path to follow, the directions, the directions. “Yes, it’s the same, but for people in wheelchairs, or who have difficulty getting around. It could also be for families with prams, or people with luggage.” He starts the path, phone in his left hand, his right hand to push himself. “For example, if I find an obstacle, I can add it. I go to the app, I add, I put what it is, a hole, a message and I indicate the level of difficulty. And if this all users will see that there is there is an obstacle in this place. And here the application tells me that there are two small steps, but there is another possible path by passing on the right, then let’s go to the right.”

“It makes sense that we make this application for Paris 2024”

For the time being, this application, developed with Arrow, a company specialized in electronics, is not operational. The launch is scheduled in two years on a symbolic date. “In 2024, Paris will host the Paralympic Games, an event that exposes people with disabilities. So it makes sense that we create this application for Paris 2024, where it will reverberate, it will be an incredible event,” explains Dani. Caverzaschi. Victor Gao, the vice president of Arrow, has worked with the player for five years: “If you live without a disability, the obstacles are easy to overcome. But for Dani Caverzaschi, that is not the case. He really helped on this point. physical and mental aspects were very important in the design of the application.” “Wheelway” will initially only be available in Paris. “I’ve been to Paris many times, it’s an incredible city, very historic and has a lot of accessibility issues like other capitals in Europe by the way. I lived in the United States, so it’s easy for me to compare. And here are cobblestones, climbs , it is sometimes difficult for a person in a wheelchair.”

With this application, the Spaniard hopes to help many people with disabilities. “If I need help on the street, I don’t care, I ask where I have my friends to help me. My disability doesn’t affect my life. That’s who I am, I adapt and that’s okay. But a lot people don’t. And so the problem is that they don’t go out on the streets or are afraid to go because they know they won’t find accessible places. It limits their lives,” the player explains. He therefore wants to make the capital as accessible as possible. “During the Paris Olympics, there will be a lot of tourists and some with disabilities. And it’s also important for the city, like Paris, to have more accessibility so that these people can go to places where they can enjoy, visit, go to a restaurant.”

“This app is going to save my life”

Originally from Madrid, it is Paris that holds a very special place in its heart. Already, for the sporty side, he who has touched many sports. In particular, he skied competitively until he was 14 before making the permanent switch to tennis. “In the Grand Slams (in the wheelchair tennis category) only the 12 best in the world play. It was difficult to qualify, but I succeeded. So I play my first Grand Slam match. And for a Spaniard, clay ,, If you know what Rafael Nadal has done here, and other Spanish players, it is of course important to us. For me it is special that my first grand slam is Roland Garros.”

Making his dreams come true, living from his passion, the 29-year-old Spaniard, eleventh in the world, feels happy. And so today. he wants to use his sports career to push such a project forward. “What I’m trying to fight is disability, physical disability, it’s just like any other problem, we all have them. Mine is physical and shows, sometimes people feel sorry for me, and often people with disabilities don’t realize that there are so many things you can do. Being a tennis player gives me visibility and I hope this project with Arrow will change a lot of things for these people.”

“Wheelway” should revolutionize travel for people with reduced mobility; Dani Caverzaschi believes: “It will save my life and I hope other people too. If there is a zebra crossing 50 meters away, but I can’t go there because it’s too narrow, I have to turn around. This app saves time and energy.” And even if it will be launched only in Paris for the time being, after that the targets will be much higher: “First, we focus on Paris and I hope it will come to Madrid, that is close to my heart and someday across the world. And the end goal is to normalize disabilities, that we see people with disabilities on the street as normal people, because statistically they represent 50% of society. And I want these people, wherever they are in the world, to live normal lives.”