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Google Maps makes wheelchair accessibility information visible to everyone

You no longer have to fiddle with your Google Maps settings to check if a place has step-free access
You no longer have to fiddle with your Google Maps settings to check if a place has step-free access

Google Maps provides wheelchair accessibility information for more than 40 million places worldwide, including public transport, pubs and restaurants.

The feature can help those with mobility needs to plan their trips by checking if the shop or landmark they’re visiting has step-free access, among other advice. It could also come in handy for parents pushing a pram, or travellers lugging a suitcase.

However, this wealth of information was previously locked behind filters and opt-in settings. Google is changing that today by making it visible to everyone by default. As a result, users should start seeing a wheelchair icon for locations that have a wheelchair-accessible entrance. There will also be the same icon with strikethrough for those that do not.

A wheelchair icon under Google Maps listings will indicate if a location has an accessible entrance (Google)
A wheelchair icon under Google Maps listings will indicate if a location has an accessible entrance (Google)

In addition, Google says you’ll be able to find more information — such as wheelchair-accessible seating, parking, and restrooms — in the “About” tab “so you can plan visits with confidence”.

An estimated 1.3 billion people — or 16 per cent of the global population— experience a significant disability, of which 16 million reside in the UK.

Disability campaigners have previously welcomed Google’s steps to provide more accessibility listings, while cautioning that these need to be accurate to be helpful.

Google relies on crowdsourced contributions from its Local Guides volunteers, businesses and everyday users to power the feature. If you want to add your own input for a place that is missing accessibility information, you can contribute by scrolling to the “About” tab and selecting “Edit features” on Android or “Update this place” on iOS.

Google is introducing the update alongside a series of new AI tools to mark Global Accessibility Awareness Day. The new features include live captions for calls, allowing you to have your typed responses read aloud during phone calls.

This option is now available on the latest Pixel devices and is expanding to older Pixel 4 and 5 handsets, along with select Samsung Galaxy phones. Captions now also support French, Italian and German on those devices.

The company is also inviting a select group of people to test out its Lookout app for people who are blind or have low-vision. The app now includes AI-powered descriptions of images.

This year is already turning out to be a big one for Google Maps. The app is set to introduce an Immersive View feature in several major cities, including London, by the end of 2023. Originally revealed last May, the update offers a 3D digital model of select cities, allowing you to view more immersive directions, see the weather, accurate lighting, and other information.

As well as London, you can preview Immersive View before its full rollout in cities including Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Tokyo.