Google Maps introduces wheelchair accessible routes in 6 cities

16 Mar 2018

Google Maps. Image: dennizn/Shutterstock

Google is making public transport for wheelchair users simpler with its latest update.

Numerous cities around the world are required to have accessible underground and rail systems, but it can often be a pain to figure out where the correct stations are. Google Maps is aiming to mitigate this problem with its latest addition to Maps – wheelchair accessible navigation.

The new feature became available yesterday (14 March) in six different metropolitan areas – London, Tokyo, Mexico City, Sydney, New York and Boston.

A collaborative effort

Last year, Local Guides from all over the world came together at 200 global meet-ups to answer accessibility questions for more than 12m locations, such as whether a place has an accessible bathroom or a step-free entrance.

Google has also been updating Street View imagery of transport stations and city centres in order to provide up-to-date preview pictures for disabled users. It has also collaborated with transit agencies in the cities involved to catalogue the most efficient and best accessible routes. Registered Local Guides can also add information to Google Maps about accessibility.

How do you use it?

To use the feature, tap ‘Directions’ and then select the public transport icon. Then tap ‘Options’ and under the ‘Routes’ section you will find ‘wheelchair accessible’ as a new route type. Choosing this option will show you a list of the routes that are wheelchair accessible.

“We’re looking forward to working with additional transit agencies in the coming months to bring more wheelchair accessible routes to Google Maps,” said Google product manager Rio Akasaka. 

Alan Benson, chair of disability access group Transport for All, told the BBC: “Getting around the London network on a restricted basis takes a lot of knowledge and confidence, something that I have built up over many years.

“For someone that does not have that knowledge it can be quite daunting. However, having accessibility information in an app the same as everyone else is great.”

However, Benson warned that the information is not entirely accurate. He gave the example of the Brixton underground station lifts being out of action until September, a fact not yet included in the Google feature. 

Google Maps. Image: dennizn/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects