Google Gets Serious About Mapping Wheelchair Accessibility

Linda Poon at CityLab: “If there’s one thing Google’s got at its disposal, it’s a global army of avid map users. Now the company is leveraging that power to make its Maps feature more useful for people with mobility challenges—a group that often gets overlooked in the world of transit and urban innovation.

Google Maps already indicates if a location is wheelchair accessible—a result of a personal project by one of its employees—but its latest campaign will crowdsource data from its 30 million Local Guides worldwide, who contribute tips and photos about neighborhood establishments in exchange for points and small prizes like extra digital storage space. The company is calling on them to answer five simple questions—like whether a building has accessible entrances or bathrooms—when they submit a review for a location. In the coming weeks, Google will host workshops and “geowalks” specifically focused on mobility across seven cities, from New York City and London to Tokyo and Surabaya, Indonesia.

“The [users] have multiple motivations, and one is wanting to help their own community get around.” says Laura Slabin, Google’s director of local content and community. “So we’re leveraging the fact that people are motivated by altruism.”

But as simple as the questions seem—Is there wheelchair-accessible seating? or Is there a wheelchair-accessible elevator?—answering them requires careful attention to detail. That’s why Google even sent out a  nifty tip sheet to help its physically abled members answer those questions….(More)”.