There is a group of programmers at Google who is trying to make Google Maps wheelchair friendly. If you want to visit a particular place, it will tell you if the place is wheelchair friendly or not. This accessibility feature has been added to Google Maps during the “20% time” slot.
All Google employees, according to this Business Insider update, are allowed to spend 20% of their working time on jobs unrelated to the main work. This way Google employees get to work on their own, personal projects and then come up with innovative solutions. Products like Gmail, AdSense and Google News were all developed during “20% time”.
Similarly, Akasaka, a product manager with Google Drive, has been spending his 20% time working on adding accessibility features to Google Maps. A team of 5-10 contributors have also worked with him.
Now, along with other information that gives you a fair idea of the condition of the place you would like to visit, for example whether the place is free to visit or not, what are its opening times, what are other venues and locations around the place, how is the atmosphere around the place and what reviews people have left for it, Google Maps will also tell you whether the place is accessible to persons with disabilities are not.
How will Google Maps know whether the place is wheelchair accessible or not and whether it has other accessibility features or not? In fact, how does Google gather information about all the attributes of a place?
On its own Google cannot know it? All the information that you find in Google Maps is actually crowd-sourced. There are provisions within Google Maps that allow people to supply information. Questions regarding disability and accessibility have also been incorporated and after millions of answers, Google Maps has enough information to make it into a feature.
Google Maps won’t just tell you whether a place is wheelchair accessible or not; it will also tell you whether a pram can be used at the place or if a person with visual impairment can use cans and other tactile information at the venue or not.
Are these accessibility features universally available in Google Maps? Not necessarily. As mentioned above, the information about whether the place is wheelchair accessible or not depends on the information gathered by people. So if you are a wheelchair user or someone who would like to help, whenever you come across a place that you think is wheelchair accessible, add the information in Google Maps so that others can also use. Even if the place is not wheelchair accessible, mention it in Google Maps.
As I wrote above, the feature isn’t yet available everywhere.