Whether a building has steps at its entrance or wheelchair-suitable seating is something that most people don’t even think about — but that knowledge makes a huge difference to people with access needs as they try and navigate the world.
And Google is now making it much easier for users to flag on Google Maps whether businesses are wheelchair-friendly.
In December 2016, the search giant first added information about the accessibility of locations on its mapping service for the first time, asking “Local Guides” (basically, super-keen Google users) to answer questions about the places they visit.
Then on Thursday, Google Maps announced a new way for people to add information more easily about the accessibility of locations to the service — a move that has the potential to significantly increase the amount of info available to people with access needs.
And the Californian search giant shared a statistic about its progress thus far: Nearly seven million places around the world now have accessibility information listed on Google Maps.
As Business Insider first reported late last year, the efforts to add accessibility info to Google Maps was driven by a group of Google employees using their 20% time — a portion of their day spent on special projects outside of their core job.
Rio Akasaka, who works on Google Drive for his day job, said that he wants to make sure “even those with access needs” benefit from Google’s mission: “To organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
Previously, the information was sourced from Local Guides as they went about their day, answering questions about everything from the atmosphere to the busy-ness of the places they visited. Google will now let users view the locations in their area that are missing accessibility info and add it directly via the business’ listings on the service.
“The accessibility attributes you can choose from include: wheelchair-accessible entrances, wheelchair-accessible elevators, wheelchair-accessible seating, and wheelchair-accessible parking,” Google employees Rio Akasaka and Shiva Thiagarajan wrote in a blog post explaining the update.
“With the help of users, we’ve been able to add accessibility information to nearly 7 million places around the world. By sharing your local knowledge, you’re helping us get even closer to enabling everyone, everywhere to easily discover and explore the places that best suit their individual needs.”
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