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Google Maps to Improve Wheelchair Accessible Routes.


For many, Google Maps is an essential app for travelling. It has transformed navigation, making it far easier to get from A to B. Despite this, as Belinda Bradley points out, it is not always the case if you have a disability. Google Maps provide different options for all modes of individual and public transport yet there are no alternative routes that allow provision for those who are disabled or in need of assistance. The lack of wheelchair friendly options prompted Belinda to start a petition on change.org asking Google to create wheelchair accessible routes on Google Maps. The petition currently has 125,992 supporters and has prompted Google to announce a campaign to improve wheelchair-accessibility information in Google Maps.

“Over the last year, I attempted to travel around London with people who have a range of disabilities, including my mum, who relies on a wheelchair for some journeys. However, we found that all routes provided by Google Maps demanded stairs, bumpy paths, small hills, foot bridges, crossings without slopes and many times there was no room on the pavement for the chair”

Belinda Bradley - https://www.change.org/p/google-maps-create-wheelchair-friendly-routes

Google had previously come under some criticism regarding the lack of disability information available on their maps. Zoya Teirstein even commented that ‘Google takes pride in making information universally accessible and useful, so why did it take the company so long to make what is arguably one of its most important apps wheelchair friendly?’. Back in December, Google added accessibility details to locations. It was a long-awaited and welcome update, however, many had the opinion that the available information still left a lot to be desired.

On Wednesday Google Software Engineer, Sasha Blair Goldensohn blogged that Google Maps now does show wheelchair-accessible routes thanks to information submitted by volunteers, but not everyone knows this tool exists, admitting Google ‘want to do more’. Goldensohn is now calling on members of the public to become local guides for Google so they can add all wheelchair access information to attractions and buildings in their local communities. The Local Guides are an online global community of explorers who write reviews, share photos, answer questions, add or edit places and check facts on Google Maps. Goldensohn has called all the Local Guides to answer three questions every two days on wheelchair accessibility in their respective local areas. If all the Local Guides can do this then two billion new contributions can be made to the map to help wheelchair users who rely on the information.



How to become a Local Guide.


In order to become a local guide, you need to create a google account, head over to The Local Guides Website, sign up with your Google account and select your current location. Every place that you review, photograph, add, edit or provide additional info for on Google Maps earns you points towards unlocking benefits such as extra cloud storage. Local Guides is offered everywhere that Google Maps is available. You must be 18 years or older to participate in Local Guides.


How to Answer Questions about a place on Google Maps.


Open Google Maps and make sure that you're signed in. Search for a place or tap it on the map. At the bottom, tap the place name or address. If you've visited or reviewed a place then a prompt ("Know this place?") will appear at the bottom. From there you simply tap ‘ok’ to answer questions about the place. To trigger prompts for places that you've visited, make sure that your Location History is on. Google offers four different accessibility descriptors to select from: wheelchair-accessible entrances, wheelchair-accessible elevators, wheelchair-accessible seating and wheelchair-accessible parking.

Currently adding accessibility options to Google Maps is only available for Android users. Google currently doesn’t have a timeline for when desktop and iOS users will be able to use this feature but is it expected to be in an app update soon.

Away from Google there are other apps available to download to aid with route accessibility such as Wheelmap and WheelMate . WheelMate gives you an instant overview of your nearest wheelchair-friendly toilets and parking spaces. Wheelmap works in a similar way but lets you add markers for places that are accessible and inaccessible. It is evident, however, that there is still a lack of wheelchair mapping routes for the public to use but with petitions like Belinda’s gaining so much support and forcing google to recognise this error it is evident that there will be more positive changes coming.


If you would like to support Belinda head on over to her campaign page where you can sign her petition.

David Creaton

Web Developer

Mark Bates Ltd

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