Google Announces "Wheelchair Accessible" Routes Feature in Maps
Why wasn't this a thing before?
Google Maps now features wheelchair accessible routes, Google announced on Wednesday. It’s a long-awaited update from the widely used service, and it should help people find timely ways to navigate urban areas that are notoriously unwelcoming to people with mobility needs.
“In city centers, buses and trains are often the best way to get around,” Google’s statement says. “Information about which stations and routes are wheelchair friendly isn’t always readily available or easy to find.”
It’s true. In New York City, for example, around 80 percent of subway stations are inaccessible to people with mobility needs. And while the Metro Transit Authority has compiled a list of accessible subway stations, it isn’t exactly easy to navigate.
Accessing the wheelchair accessible routes on Google Maps, on the other hand, is simple. Simply type in your destination as you normally would, and select a public transit route. From there, press the options button and select “Wheelchair accessible,” from the drop-down menu. Your route options will automatically update to show accessible buses and subways.
For now, the wheelchair accessible option is only available in a few major metropolises worldwide: London, New York, Tokyo, Mexico City, Boston, and Sydney. But Google Maps hopes to bring accessibility information to more places in the future as soon as its gathered enough information.
The wheelchair accessibility option was made possible by Google volunteers, called “Local Guides,” who collected information about public transit systems around the world.
“Last September, Local Guides from around the world gathered at 200 global meet-ups to answer accessibility questions—like whether a place has a step-free entrance or an accessible restroom—for more than 12 million places,” the statement says. The more guides join the cause, the sooner Google will be able to make wheelchair accessible route options available in other regions.
Amid a climate of perpetually bleak technology news, it’s nice to see an app add a feature aimed at providing a good service to the world — even if it was a long time coming.