Author Archives: Sasha Blair-Goldensohn

Find wheelchair accessible places with Google Maps

Editor’s note: Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and we’ll be sharing resources and tools for education, as well as accessibility features and updates for Android and Google Maps. 

Imagine making plans to go somewhere new, taking the journey to get there and arriving— only to be stuck outside, prevented from sitting with family or being unable to access the restroom. It’s a deeply frustrating experience I’ve had many times since becoming a wheelchair user in 2009. And it’s an experience all too familiar to the 130 million wheelchair users worldwide and the more than 30 million Americans who have difficulty using stairs.

So imagine instead being able to “know before you go” whether a destination is wheelchair accessible, just as effortlessly as looking up the address. In recognition of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, we’re announcing a new Google Maps feature that does just that.

People can now turn on an “Accessible Places” feature to have wheelchair accessibility information more prominently displayed in Google Maps. When Accessible Places is switched on, a wheelchair icon will indicate an accessible entrance and you’ll be able to see if a place has accessible seating, restrooms or parking. If it’s confirmed that a place does not have an accessible entrance, we’ll show that information on Maps as well.

Better maps for everyone, whether you walk or roll

Today, Google Maps has wheelchair accessibility information for more than 15 million places around the world. That number has more than doubled since 2017 thanks to the dedication of more than 120 million Local Guidesand others who’ve responded to our call to share accessibility information. In total, this community has contributed more than 500 million wheelchair accessibility updates to Google Maps. Store owners have also helped, using Google My Business to add accessibility information for their business profiles to help users needing stair-free access find them on Google Maps and Search.


With this feature “rollout”, it’s easier to find and contribute wheelchair accessibility information to Google Maps. That benefits everyone, from those of us using wheelchairs and parents pushing strollers to older adults with tired legs and people hauling heavy items. And in this time of COVID-19, it’s especially important to know before you go so that you won’t be stranded outside that pharmacy, grocery or restaurant.

How to contribute accessibility information to Google Maps

Anyone can contribute accessibility information to Google Maps

To get wheelchair accessibility information more prominently displayed in Google Maps, update your app to the latest version, go to Settings, select “Accessibility,” and turn on “Accessible Places.” The feature is available on both Android and iOS. 

We’re also rolling out an update that allows people using iOS devices to more easily contribute accessibility information, joining the millions of Android users who have been sharing this type of information on Maps. This guide has tips for rating accessibility, in case you’re not sure what counts as being “accessible.” We invite everyone to switch on Accessible Places and contribute accessibility information to help people in your community.

A Maps milestone, built on a movement

This launch is a milestone in our journey to build a better, more helpful map for everyone, which includes recent efforts to help people find accessible places, transit routes and walking directions. Our work wouldn’t be possible without the decades of advocacy from those who have fought for equal access for people with disabilities. Were it not for them, there would be far fewer accessible places for Google Maps to show.

The Accessible Places feature is starting to rollout for Google Maps users in Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, with support for additional countries on the way.

How to turn on Accessible Places

Use the Accessible Places feature to see accessibility information more prominently displayed in Google Maps

How I’m making Maps better for wheelchair users like me

If you visit a city and don’t see anyone using a wheelchair, it doesn’t mean they’re not there. It means the city hasn’t been built in such a way as to let them be part of things. I know this firsthand: I’m one of 65 million people around the world who uses a wheelchair, and I see every day how a city’s infrastructure can prevent people like me from being active, visible members of society.

On July 29, 2009, I was taking my usual morning walk through New York’s Central Park when a dead tree branch snapped and fell on my head. The spinal damage partly paralyzed my lower body. I spent the next seven months in the hospital, where I got the first glimpse of what my life would be like from then on. I was going to use a wheelchair for the rest of my life—and my experience as a born and bred New Yorker was about to change forever.  

That’s because much of the city isn’t accessible for people like me. Fewer than one in four subway stations in New York City have wheelchair access. And plenty of places, from restaurants to schools, lack a way for me to even get inside. It was humbling to realize these  barriers had been there throughout my growing up in New York; I simply hadn’t noticed.

Those realizations were in my mind when I returned to work in 2011 as an engineer on the Search team, especially because I could no longer take my usual subway route to work. However, the more I shared with colleagues, the more I found people who wanted to help solve real-world access needs. Using “20 percent time”—time spent outside day-to-day job descriptions—my colleagues like Rio Akasaka and Dianna Hu pitched in and we launched wheelchair-friendly transit directions. That initial work has now led to a full-time team dedicated to accessibility on Maps.

I’ve also collaborated with another group of great allies, stretching far beyond Google. For the past several years, I’ve worked with our Local Guides, a community of 120 million people worldwide who contribute information to Google Maps. By answering questions like “Does this place have a wheelchair accessible entrance,” Local Guides help people with mobility impairments decide where to go. Thanks to them, we can now provide crowdsourced accessibility information for more than 50 million places on Google Maps. At our annual event last year and againseveral weeks ago, I met some amazing Guides--like Emeka from NigeriaandIlankovan from Sri Lanka--who have become informal accessibility ambassadors themselves, promoting the inclusion of people with disabilities in their communities around the world.

Today, on International Day of Persons With Disabilities, I hope our work to make Google Maps more inclusive underscores what Angela Glover Blackwell wrote so powerfully about in “The Curb-Cut Effect.” When we build with accessibility in mind, it doesn’t just help people with disabilities. It helps everyone. Curb cuts in sidewalks don’t just help me cross the street—they also help parents pushing strollers, workers with deliveries and tourists with suitcases. As Blackwell puts it, building equity is not a zero-sum game—everyone benefits.

The people in wheelchairs you don’t see in your city? They've been shut out, and may not be able to be a part of society because their environment isn't accessible. And that’s not merely a loss for them. It’s a loss for everyone, including friends, colleagues and loved ones of people with disabilities. I’m grateful to those who stay mindful of the issues faced by people like me to ensure that our solutions truly help the greater community.

Source: Google LatLong


A better world for wheels on Google Maps

More than 65 million people worldwide need wheelchairs. I became one of them after an accident eight years ago, and I discovered what it’s like to navigate the world on wheels.

As I learned, those of us with mobility issues need information about places before we arrive. Does the art museum have a stair-free entrance? What about the cafe across the street? And is there an accessible restroom at that new restaurant?

Google Maps now offers answers that allow me—and millions of others on wheels—to find accessible places. Because anyone can identify and label wheelchair-friendly locations directly on the map, it’s easy to share this knowledge around the world. But not everyone knows this tool exists, so we want to do more.

Starting today, we’re calling on Local Guides, a community of people who contribute their expertise about places on Google Maps, to add more wheelchair accessibility attributes to the map. If each of our tens of millions of Local Guides answers three of these questions every day for two weeks, we can gather nearly two billion answers to help people who rely on this information every day.

And wheelchair users aren’t the only ones who will benefit. You'll also be making life easier for families with strollers, seniors with walkers, or anyone making plans with a friend who has impaired mobility.

It takes seconds to have this type of impact. First, make sure your Google Maps Location History is turned on. Then visit “Your contributions” in the upper-left menu, tap “Answer questions about a place,” and indicate whether businesses you’ve visited are wheelchair-friendly. (If you aren’t sure, take a look at a brief guide to answering accessibility questions.) On Google Maps for Android, you can even seek out places that need this info.

Manifesting

All month, Local Guides across the globe are getting together at meet-ups to answer wheelchair accessibility questions on Google Maps. Join a meet-up, or even host your own (if you’re a Local Guide Level 3 or higher). Or gather some friends and explore a neighborhood, adding info as you go.

We hope you’ll contribute your knowledge to the map to help those of us on wheels more easily navigate the world.

Spread the word using #LocalGuides and #a11y.

Source: Google LatLong


A better world for wheels on Google Maps

More than 65 million people worldwide need wheelchairs. I became one of them after an accident eight years ago, and I discovered what it’s like to navigate the world on wheels.

As I learned, those of us with mobility issues need information about places before we arrive. Does the art museum have a stair-free entrance? What about the cafe across the street? And is there an accessible restroom at that new restaurant?

Chicago

Google Maps now offers answers that allow me—and millions of others on wheels—to find accessible places. Because anyone can identify and label wheelchair-friendly locations directly on the map, it’s easy to share this knowledge around the world. But not everyone knows this tool exists, so we want to do more.

Starting today, we’re calling on Local Guides, a community of people who contribute their expertise about places on Google Maps, to add more wheelchair accessibility attributes to the map. If each of our tens of millions of Local Guides answers three of these questions every day for two weeks, we can gather nearly two billion answers to help people who rely on this information every day.
Indonesia

And wheelchair users aren’t the only ones who will benefit. You'll also be making life easier for families with strollers, seniors with walkers, or anyone making plans with a friend who has impaired mobility.

It takes seconds to have this type of impact. First, make sure your Google Maps Location History is turned on. Then visit “Your contributions” in the upper-left menu, tap “Answer questions about a place,” and indicate whether businesses you’ve visited are wheelchair-friendly. (If you aren’t sure, take a look at a brief guide to answering accessibility questions.) On Google Maps for Android, you can even seek out places that need this info.

Manifesting
On Google Maps for Android, you can find places that are missing accessibility information

All month, Local Guides across the globe are getting together at meet-ups to answer wheelchair accessibility questions on Google Maps. Join a meet-up, or even host your own (if you’re a Local Guide Level 3 or higher). Or gather some friends and explore a neighborhood, adding info as you go.

We hope you’ll contribute your knowledge to the map to help those of us on wheels more easily navigate the world.

Spread the word using #LocalGuides and #a11y.

Source: Google LatLong


A better world for wheels on Google Maps

More than 65 million people worldwide need wheelchairs. I became one of them after an accident eight years ago, and I discovered what it’s like to navigate the world on wheels.

As I learned, those of us with mobility issues need information about places before we arrive. Does the art museum have a stair-free entrance? What about the cafe across the street? And is there an accessible restroom at that new restaurant?

Chicago

Google Maps now offers answers that allow me—and millions of others on wheels—to find accessible places. Because anyone can identify and label wheelchair-friendly locations directly on the map, it’s easy to share this knowledge around the world. But not everyone knows this tool exists, so we want to do more.


Starting today, we’re calling on Local Guides, a community of people who contribute their expertise about places on Google Maps, to add more wheelchair accessibility attributes to the map. If each of our tens of millions of Local Guides answers three of these questions every day for two weeks, we can gather nearly two billion answers to help people who rely on this information every day.
Indonesia

And wheelchair users aren’t the only ones who will benefit. You'll also be making life easier for families with strollers, seniors with walkers, or anyone making plans with a friend who has impaired mobility.

It takes seconds to have this type of impact. First, make sure your Google Maps Location History is turned on. Then visit “Your contributions” in the upper-left menu, tap “Answer questions about a place,” and indicate whether businesses you’ve visited are wheelchair-friendly. (If you aren’t sure, take a look at a brief guide to answering accessibility questions.) On Google Maps for Android, you can even seek out places that need this info.

Manifesting
On Google Maps for Android, you can find places that are missing accessibility information

All month, Local Guides across the globe are getting together at meet-ups to answer wheelchair accessibility questions on Google Maps. Join a meet-up, or even host your own (if you’re a Local Guide Level 3 or higher). Or gather some friends and explore a neighborhood, adding info as you go.

We hope you’ll contribute your knowledge to the map to help those of us on wheels more easily navigate the world.

Spread the word using #LocalGuides and #a11y.

Source: Google LatLong