The ability to literally move around in the world – to enter a building, to use a restroom, to access the second story of a building – is something that the vast majority of us can take for granted.
But for the over 3 million Americans who use wheelchairs, everyday decision and tasks are complicated by a lack of accessibility.
In 1990, the U.S. passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires all new buildings to be wheelchair accessible. However, these laws don’t apply to facilities built before 1993, meaning that there are still a lot of places that a person in a wheelchair can’t get into.
Imagine the inconvenience of making an appointment or driving to a store or event, only to find that you can’t get in.
We all occasionally use the Internet or a smartphone app to make sure that the places we want to go are where we think they are, and that they are open for business. Wheelchair users need similar solutions to find out whether or not the places they want to go will be accessible.
Making accessibility accessible
Back in December, Google started adding accessibility details to locations on Google Maps. Now Google is making an effort to more quickly fill in this information by allowing Android users to add accessibility information to Maps.
Android users can indicate whether businesses and facilities have wheelchair accessible entrances, elevators, and restrooms.
In just a few clicks, the information is updated on Google Maps and in searches and is listed in the “Accessibility” section of place listings.
The updated information is visible on all platforms, but so far Google hasn’t created a way for iOS or desktop users to update the information.
The right direction
There are already accessibility-specific maps and apps, such as Wheelmap.org, a German-based website with worldwide maps showing accessible facilities. However, Wheelmap is less than ideal; you can look at a map of your hometown, but can’t search for particular facilities, such as “restaurant” or “movie theatre.”
Adding accessibility to a highly functional map app like Google Maps will be a huge boon to wheelchair users across the U.S.