Google Maps’ Accessible Routes Help Wheelchair Users Plan Travel

Woman in Wheelchair Waiting for Subway

It seems like a foregone conclusion — public transportation should be available to everyone. Yet, 28 years after the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities and mandated they have equal access to public transportation, accessibility on city buses and public rail systems remains insufficient.

A 2017 study, “Public Transportation: An Investigation of Barriers for People With Disabilities” published in the Journal of Disability Policy Studies, found that despite improvements in public transit “significant barriers to overall access of public transportation systems are still widespread.”

Barriers to public transportation are more than inconvenient. They have major implications for people with disabilities’ prospects for employment, education, healthcare, socialization and independence. In fact, a 2012 report by The American Association of People with Disabilities and The Leadership Conference Education Fund found that inadequate public transportation options cause many people with disabilities to be homebound. According to the report, “Of the nearly 2 million people with disabilities who never leave their homes, 560,000 never leave home because of transportation difficulties.”

Happily, a recent improvement to Google Maps has made travel a little bit easier for people who use wheelchairs to get around. On March 15, 2018, Google posted the following message on its blog site, “The Key Word.”

“To make public transit work for everyone, today we’re introducing “wheelchair accessible” routes in transit navigation to make getting around easier for those with mobility needs.”

The new feature launched in London, New York, Tokyo, Mexico City, Boston, and Sydney on March 15, but Google hopes to make it available to other cities in the coming months.

In order to gather information about accessible routes, Google assembled 200 meet-ups around the globe. At the meet-ups, local guides (Google content contributors) provided feedback on accessibility on more than 12 million locations. Google says it is also in the process of “capturing and updating street view imagery of transit stations and city centers so people can preview a place or transit station ahead of time.”

To use Google Maps’ wheelchair accessible routes feature:

“Type your desired destination into Google Maps. Tap “Directions” then select the public transportation icon. Then tap “Options” and under the Routes section, you’ll find “wheelchair accessible” as a new route type. When you select this option, Google Maps will show you a list of possible routes that take mobility needs into consideration.”

Happy travels!