A group of Google employees spent their '20% time' making Google Maps wheelchair-friendly
Google Maps is now wheelchair-friendly.The wildly popular map app will now tell you whether locations are suitable for people with access needs - and it's thanks to a group of Googlers who worked on the feature in their "20% time."
By day, Akasaka is a product manager on Google Drive, the cloud file-hosting service. But in his 20% time, the Boulder, Colorado resident is a product manager working on accessibility features for Google Maps.For the last year, he has worked with a team of contributors (between five and 10 of them, all in all) on introducing accessibility guidelines to Google Maps. The map tool already displays some information about venues and locations, like busy-ness, opening times, reviews, and atmosphere. Alongside this, it will now display information about their suitability for people with access needs.
How does Google Maps know? It sources the answers from its "Local Guides" - Google Maps users who answer questions about the places they visit on everything from cost to quietness. Earlier this year, queries on accessibility were added to the questions asked to these users, and with millions of answers, Google now feels confident enough to start displaying the results on its listings.It looks like a small change - but if you're in a wheelchair, it's a pretty important one.
But there are no rules governing accessibility requirements for mapping software, forcing Akasaka and his team to be more proactive.
The feature won't just help people in wheelchairs, either. The product manager cites parents with prams, or people reliant on canes, as people who will benefit from more information about a building's facilities."Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful," the company boasts. Akasaka says he wants to make sure that "even those with access needs" benefit from this.
Here's how the new feature looks in action:
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