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Google Strives to Improve Wheelchair Accessibility with Google Maps
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Google Strives to Improve Wheelchair Accessibility with Google Maps

Google, known for its innovative contributions to the tech industry, is now taking on an inclusive project wherein they will attempt to evolve their Maps app so that it can be used to assist people with disabilities. This will be done by utilizing their vast network of global users.

Aiming to open more roads

The company does not face much of a challenge in getting this new innovation moving on the right road as they plan on leveraging their broad map user base to make their feature usable for people with reduced mobility. These are the people who are usually left out when thinking of transit and mobility innovations.

Google’s campaign isn’t something that is completely out of the box. Many researchers have already begun the task of creating apps or small-scale maps that can help people with disabilities navigate around cities; however, Google taking over this project could render much greater and further reaching results than ever before. At least, that is what Belinda Bradley, who started a change.org petition asking Google to add wheelchair accessible routes to Google maps, hopes to achieve.  

After Bradley’s petition made national headlines, she received a response from Google. She plans on meeting with people from the Local Guides community to discuss ways in which she can present her proposal.

What does Google’s campaign seek to achieve?

A project taken up by one of Google’s employees had already made the app spell out whether certain places are wheelchair accessible or not; however, this new project of theirs aims to crowdsource data from their users, who surpass 30 million. These users are expected to contribute all kinds of photos and tips about various neighborhoods and roads.

Google is also looking to follow up with workshops that will speak about mobility across seven different cities from New York to Tokyo to Indonesia. Laura Slabin, the director of local content and community at Google, says that Google’s task to improve wheelchair accessibility is not a major challenge as many users are motivated to help people in their community move around comfortably.

Although there are just about five simple questions to answer, providing answers is not all that easy, so Google has gone a step further and sent out a nifty tip sheet that will assist people in answering those questions properly. Small details like adequate size of a doorway, presence or lack of stairways, are the details that one needs to pay heed to. Simply saying a building has a ramp and therefore is accessible is not useful at all.

The path ahead

While Bradley certainly did not hesitate to shower praise on these groups that have been working to create their own small-scale apps to reach out to people with disabilities, she still hopes Google Maps will have a far greater reach, thus benefitting a greater number of people. Since Google Maps is the most widely used navigation app out there, she does not see why people with disabilities shouldn't be able to get their navigation needs right here.

Slabin insists however, that Google is completely open to addressing accessibility issues and has been doing so since 2010. Google will certainly succeed in improving wheelchair accessibility by collecting detailed, concrete data for their Maps app. After all, the mobility issue is just the beginning of what the company hopes to tackle as they move forward.

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