In today’s world, technology changes rapidly and often. We use modern technology to undertake various activities such as speaking to friends and family who are miles away, getting work done on a laptop that’s the size of a notebook, and ordering pizza or a curry in just a few clicks.
Technology makes our everyday lives more comfortable in a lot of ways. Voice-activated technology, such as Alexa (Amazon Echo) and Google Assistant (Google Home) can help with tasks such as turning lights on and off, ordering shopping, checking on the weather and many other daily jobs – a real boon if you are living with any form of disability and find some everyday tasks difficult.
A feature recently launched by Google Maps is another example of how helpful technology can be.
Accessible Places is a Google Maps feature enabling wheelchair users to quickly find out whether a place is wheelchair accessible before they leave home.
When using Google Maps and Accessible Places is switched on (via SETTINGS and then ACCESSIBILITY), a wheelchair icon will indicate an accessible entrance. People can also see whether the location has accessible seating, toilets and parking.
If a place does not have an accessible entrance, Google Maps shares this information with end-users, so people can make an informed decision about the places they visit.
There are over 1 billion people in the world who are less able than others. Going to restaurants, shops, the cinema, and so on are activities which many of us take for granted but which can be both challenging and frustrating for many. And a negative experience certainly can knock confidence.
For the physically disabled, barriers can include things like blocked wheelchair ramps, inaccessible toilets, shops without step-free access and no lift to other floors.
Although it’s mandatory by different laws across the world, accessibility hasn’t always been appropriately implemented in many places. Accessibility shouldn’t be a barrier to independence.
Many public places do provide help for those that need it. Still, it’s often not well known, or the service isn’t consistent enough, or flexible enough to adapt to the needs of the individual.
This isn’t the first time Google has made a difference in this area as they regularly add new features to try and make the everyday world a little less daunting.
Google designed the Accessible Places feature for the 130 million global wheelchair users. Google built it using the crowdsourced efforts of its Local Guides – volunteers who helped double the number of accessibility listings for businesses to more than 15 million.
Google also gives iOS and Android users the ability to contribute relevant information. “This guide has tips for rating accessibility, in case you’re not sure what counts as being accessible,” says Google. “We invite everyone to switch on Accessible Places and contribute information to help people in [our] community.”
We’ve all heard many horror stories of less well able people let down by poor infrastructure, bad service, or being treated as an afterthought. And, although most companies want to do more, a lot have not made their accessibility policy a priority.
Here at Ability Superstore, we’re glad that Google has taken the initiative to develop this new feature on their app. We hope that other companies follow Google’s footsteps.
If you’re under the impression that this feature will only benefit a small fraction of the population, think again. Remember that accessibility isn’t just for those with disabilities. Whether you’re pushing a stroller, carrying something heavy, or just a little tired, knowing that you can quickly look up places that will welcome you helps makes life a little easier.
Fancy some further reading? Have a read of our Guest Editor, Lesley’s blog on shopping – it will certainly make you smile… and think too!