Google Maps app now tells users whether some locations are wheelchair-accessible, thanks to the efforts of a Google employee in his spare time.
Rio Akasaka, a product manager for cloud storage service Google Drive, undertook the project using his ‘20% time’ – a well-known Google employee policy that allows staff to spend 20 per cent of their time working on projects unrelated to their role at the company.
In an interview with the ‘Business Insider’ news website earlier this month about the project, Akasaka explained that he led a small team of Google employees, who worked to add the accessibility information to certain venues in the mobile app version of Google Maps. The data was collected by Google’s ‘Local Guides’, a community of millions of users who volunteer to answer questions about places they visit when using Google Maps. This information helps Google improve its maps and provide more detailed information to other users.
Earlier this year, Google began asking its Local Guides accessibility questions about venues they were visiting. Millions of responses were collected, enabling Google to begin adding this information to map venues.
When users click on a venue description in Google Maps to view its features, the ‘Amenities’ section now lists whether the venue has a wheelchair-accessible entrance – as long as the information has been collected and logged.
Akasaka also said in the interview that he believes this information will benefit other users, as well as those using wheelchairs, such as people with prams or those who use a cane to walk.