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Wheelchair accessibility? Ask Google map

Google Maps now has a feature that lists the wheelchair accessibility of a place, and relies on users to crowdsource the information

Google Maps is an absolute Godsend for everyone who ever ventures outside their front door. A lifesaver for many of us is even more vital for the millions of people in wheelchairs in the US. Google Maps will now display wheelchair accessibility information for locations, right alongside details like store hours or dining options, under the ‘amenities’ section. This means anyone who needs to know whether a specific location offers access to people in wheelchairs then they can find out simply by checking Google Maps.

The feature won’t just help people in wheelchairs but also parents with prams, or people reliant on canes, will benefit from more information about a building’s facilities.

Here is how it looks.

via GIPHY

25 years back, America’s 41st president George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act that requires new buildings to have wheelchair access. But, cyberspace hasn’t always kept up with this progress.

Now, the mapping giant Google gave a thought over it and worked with a hope of change.

Google Maps hasn’t ever catered to people in wheelchairs or facing other accessibility issues. Until now. With the recent rollout of a new feature, people in wheelchairs will be able to see whether the location they’re due to visit is actually accessible to them or not.

Wondering what the source is?

Google Maps service receives this information from its human ‘Local guides’ – who are everyday Google Maps users. They answer questions about the places they visit mentioning the cost, parking facilities and other such information. After collecting data in the past year, Google recently launched this feature.

It looks like a small change – but if you’re in a wheelchair, it’s a pretty important one.

Brainiac behind

This wheelchair accessibility feature is the brainchild of Rio Akasaka. Akasaka is a product manager on Google Drive, the Cloud file-hosting service. But in his 20% time, he worked on accessibility features for Google Maps. Since one year, Akasaka has worked with a team of 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. Akasaka says, “Accessibility at Google is a big deal. But it’s often facilitated by whether or not there’s a legal requirement or some sort of requirement we need to adhere to.” Since there are no rules governing accessibility requirements for mapping software. It was good news to Akasaka and the team, to be more proactive. Akasaka says he wants to make sure that “even those with access needs” benefit from this as Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

All thanks to the Giant’s 20% time policy.

Wheelchair feature came about not as a full-fledged Google effort, but from the company’s aging “20% policy,” which allowed a handful of employees to spend a portion of their working hours on side projects.

In addition to their regular projects, Google encourages its employees to spend 20% of their time working on what they think will most benefit Google. This empowers employees to be more creative and innovative. Many significant like Google News, Gmail, and AdSense have happened in this manner.