Technological advancements in the area of mobility vehicles and assistive equipment can make a huge impact on individuals living with a disability. Engineers nationwide help create better ramps, lifts, chairs and scooters to help improve the daily life of those with mobility impairments.
Google announced in spring of 2018 that it’s Maps tool now includes a Wheelchair Accessible Route Feature to assist those who require assistive equipment.
Until recently, Google Maps and other GPS programs didn’t take into account if the user needed a wheelchair or scooter when using public transportation or sidewalks. The new feature provides updated wheelchair accessible routes in several major cities (New York, Boston, Mexico City, Sydney, Tokyo and London).
How to use Google Maps’ “wheelchair accessible” routes feature
● Type your destination into Google Maps (feature only available in certain metropolitan areas for now).
● Tap “Directions.”
● Click the public transportation icon or pedestrian icon.
● Once you tap on “Options,” you should be able to see “Wheelchair Accessible Routes.”
● Routes to wheelchair-accessible sidewalks, transportation and restrooms will appear.
● Images for these areas may be available in major cities.
Developers at Google have been working over the last few months with public transit officials to expand the services to other metropolitan areas and eventually the rest of the world. In 2017, Google went to 200 global destinations to meet with city officials and find out details about everything from entrances to buildings to restroom accessibility. More than 12 million destinations are being explored and hoped to become included in the app.
Google engineers began developing the feature after one of their own co-workers became partially paralyzed. Sasha Blair-Goldensohn, a Google Maps developer, returned to work after an accident and realized that safely navigating New York City by subway and street in a wheelchair was incredibly difficult. Goldensohn realized that many others in wheelchairs and those using walkers were struggling with the same difficulties when using the application.
“Just having it out in the world is the best way to move the product forward, both in terms of getting feedback from users, from transit authorities and even from within Google,” Blair-Goldensohn told CNBC.
While the technology is still in its infancy, this is a major step towards helping people in wheelchairs get around much easier and safer. Google is planning to expand the number of areas this wheelchair access feature reaches as well as provide pathways for stroller users, those with luggage or crutches, etc.
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