Google Maps just made life a little easier for wheelchair users looking for accessible locations.
People with disabilities and those who use mobility aids can now click on various storefronts and other public places within the mobile app, and it will say whether the locations have accessible entrances. The information is listed under the “Amenities” section for each business.
A group of Google employees used their “20 percent time” to create the feature. The company allows employees to use 20 percent of their time (one day per week) to work on projects unrelated to their main jobs — and several major products, like Gmail and Google News, began through the program. Many employees don’t use the perk, however, because they can’t find the time.
“Accessibility at Google is a big deal.”
But Rio Akasaka, a product manager for Google Drive who worked on the new feature, said he uses his 20 percent time to work on expanding accessibility features for Google products.
“Accessibility at Google is a big deal,” Akasaka said in an interview with Business Insider. “But it’s often facilitated by whether or not there’s a legal requirement, or some sort of requirement we need to adhere to.”
As a result, other startups — such as Accomable and Access Earth — have tried to fill in the gaps over the years by specifically catering to users with disabilities. Google Maps finally seems to be catching up.
Akasaka and about 10 others during the past year have worked on new accessibility features at the company. Google Maps sources the new accessibility information about locations from its Local Guides community, members of which answer questions about the places they visit.
Google added questions related to accessibility to the Local Guides questionnaire earlier this year. According to BI, Google now has enough information to confidently list the results. The feature isn’t available yet for all locations.
Nearly one in eight people in the U.S. reported living with a mobility-related disability last year, according to the CDC. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires all public and commercial properties, like restaurants and hotels, built after 1992 to be accessible. But for older buildings and architecture, especially in cities, retrofitting and modifications can be more difficult to implement. And around the world, accessibility laws vary widely by country.
The fact that Google Maps is now showing wheelchair accessibility information may seem like a small addition. But for people with disabilities, the extra information can go a long way.
Petronzio, Matt. “Google Maps now finally tells you when a business is wheelchair accessible.” Mashable.com, December 16. 2016. http://mashable.com/2016/12/16/google-maps-wheelchair-accessible-locations/#.4x8x5mZqOqh Accessed 23 Jan. 2017.