Google has added information regarding wheelchair accessibility to Google Maps. This means anyone who needs to know whether a specific location offers access to people in wheelchairs can find out simply by checking Google Maps. And it’s all thanks to Google’s famed “20% time”.
Google Maps is an absolute Godsend for everyone who ever ventures outside their front door. It allows you to plan routes, zero in on landmarks (via Google Street View), and even discover places to visit, eat, and drink in the local vicinity. This all makes it an essential app on any platform.
However, Google Maps hasn’t ever catered to people in wheelchairs or facing other accessibility issues. Until now. With the recent rollout of a new feature, people in wheelchairs will be able to see whether the location they’re due to visit is actually accessible to them.
This information will now be available under the “Amenities” heading for locations around the United States. Wheelchair users, as well as mothers with pushchairs or anyone else who experiences difficulties getting around, can now see, at an instant, whether locations are wheelchair-friendly.
Google Makes Use of Local Guides
This information has been gathered using Google’s Local Guides, who are everyday Google Maps users who answer questions on the places they visit, building up a repository of information. You can chip in yourself by heading to the “Your Contributions” tab on Google Maps on the web or on mobile.
This wheelchair accessibility feature is the brainchild of Rio Akasaka, whose day job is as a product manager for Google Drive. However, he dedicates his “20% time” working on accessibility features for Google Maps. “20% time” being a Google initiative allowing employees to work on other projects for 20 percent of the time. Gmail famously started as a “20% time” project.
Akasaka told Business Insider, “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.” He’s fighting to change that, making sure everyone benefits equally from Google collecting and collating masses of information.
Will you be making use of Google Maps’ new wheelchair accessibility feature? Should more companies take people in wheelchairs into consideration? Should Google enable more employees to take advantage of their “20% time” in this way? Please let us know in the comments below!
Image Credit: Kent Slade via Flickr