Nearly 3 million Americans use a wheelchair and about 130 million people worldwide require one for mobility. Unfortunately, many businesses and public spaces don’t have accessibility features. Wheelchair users can now use their smartphone to get instant accessibility information when they search, thanks to a new feature in Google Maps.
On May 21st, in honor of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Google announced a new “Accessible Places” feature in Google Maps. The feature lets users see immediately if a business or location has a wheelchair accessible entrance and other accessibility options, such as ramps, seating, restrooms, and parking. Accessible Places also provides on-the-spot information for people who have difficulty walking, parents pushing strollers, and those delivering cargo or hauling large items.
When searching in Google Maps, a wheelchair icon appears at the top of listings that have an accessible entrance. Users can open the listing and scroll for more accessibility information. Accessible Places also indicates when listings have a confirmed lack of accessibility.
More than 120 million Local Guides, a Google community devoted to acquiring and fact-checking information about local restaurants, businesses, and more, responded to a 2017 call for accessibility information. The fruits of those efforts have provided Google Maps with accessibility information for more than 15 million places around the globe. Business owners have also contributed accessibility updates through the Google My Business program.
The new update, available for both Android and IOS, also simplifies the process of adding accessibility info for all users. People who wish to contribute can use Local Guides accessibility assessment tips to assess whether a business is genuinely wheelchair accessible. The update rolls out first in Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, with plans for bringing Accessible Places to additional countries already underway.