Google introduces wheelchair paths to maps

Google has updated the street view for many key transit points, like Japan's Tokyo Station. — Google

Google has updated the street view for many key transit points, like Japan's Tokyo Station. — Google

Google Maps is making it more intuitive for people with mobility needs to get around by introducing wheelchair accessible routes in its transit navigation. 

In a post on the Keyword, Google Maps product manager Rio Akasaka said though public transportation was crucial for city travel, information about which stations and routes were wheelchair friendly was not always readily available or easy to find.

"Google Maps was built to help people navigate and explore the world, providing  directions, worldwide, to people travelling by car, bicycle or on foot. But in city centres, busses and trains are often the best way to get around, which presents a challenge for people who use wheelchairs or with other mobility needs," she said. 

Akasaka said the feature has been rolled out in major metropolitan transit centres starting with London, New York, Tokyo, Mexico City, Boston, and Sydney. 

"We're looking forward to working with additional transit agencies in the coming months to bring more wheelchair accessible routes to Google Maps," she said. 

A GIF on the blog showed how to access the “wheelchair accessible” routes, as such: first type the desired destination into Google Maps. 

Then tap “Directions”, select the public transportation icon, next tap “Options” and under the Routes section “wheelchair accessible” will appear as a new route type, in addition to "best route", "fewer transfers" or "less walking".

When this option was selected, Google Maps would show a list of possible routes that took mobility needs into consideration.  

"We built this feature to make life easier for people who use wheelchairs, but accessible routes are also helpful if you’re on crutches or pushing a stroller," she said Akasaka. 

She said in addition to making public transportation more accessible, people around the world have been helping Google add accessibility information to Google Maps. 

"Last September, Local Guides from around the world gathered at 200 global meet-ups to answer accessibility questions – like whether a place has a step-free entrance or an accessible restroom – for more than 12 million places," she said.

Google had also captured and updated its Street View imagery of transit stations and city centres so people can preview a place or transit station ahead of time.

"With the help of transit agencies around the globe and people like you who contribute local knowledge, we’re making progress toward a more accessible world for everyone," she said.