Google Maps is Now Wheelchair Friendly!

A small group of Google employees just completed a project that should make any person in wheelchair smile:

Google Maps is now wheelchair friendly!

The application will now tell users whether locations they are viewing are accessible to people with disabilities. Not only will you be able to travel to a place in your wheelchair accessible vehicle, you will know beforehand whether or not it is accessible to you, too.

A Project That Was a Year in the Making

Why did this take so long? Because it wasn’t an “official” Google project. Google has long had a policy known as “20{4484a610ba12ad46baec767347073917e486819a83b2d744ced0feda89144e79} time.” All employees (upon getting permission from their superior) can spend 20{4484a610ba12ad46baec767347073917e486819a83b2d744ced0feda89144e79} of their work time on projects that are not related to their primary jobs. It’s one of the ways Google encourages creativity in their staff. These projects can range, and many different well-known products started with this policy: Gmail, AdSense, Google News, etc.

A few of Google’s employees (about 10), led by Rio Akasaka, a product manager on Google Drive, decided to spend their 20{4484a610ba12ad46baec767347073917e486819a83b2d744ced0feda89144e79} time making Google maps accessible. While a lot of information about places is already displayed when you look up locations, Google Maps will now tell you if they are suitable for people with different accessibility needs.

How it Works

The app can tell whether or not a place is accessible using “Local Guides,” which relies on people answering questions about the places they visit. This means that you can contribute to expanding this app by letting Google’s Local Guides know if the places you visit are accessible for people with different needs!

Akasaka told Business Insider that “Accessibility at Google is a big deal… But it’s often facilitated by whether or not there’s a legal requirement, or some sort of requirement we need to adhere to.”

There aren’t any rules that govern the accessibility requirements for software like Google Maps, hence the reason why they needed to go to the people to supply the content.

Have you used the new feature on Google Maps? Let us know if you like it in the comments below!

« Back to Blog