Google Maps is launching a new accessibility feature that lets users find wheelchair accessible places with the push of a button.
“Accessible Places” is a feature that can be turned on and off in the Google Maps app.
When switched on, accessible places can be quickly identified with a wheelchair icon.
Here’s an example of what the icon looks like:
The icon is so unobtrusive that it’s a wonder why Google wouldn’t opt to add it to Maps listings by default.
For now at least, Accessible Place is a feature that has to be turned on manually.
Being accessible means the location has a wheelchair accessible entrance. It may also have accessible seating, restrooms, and parking.
If a place offers some degree of accessibility, but not an accessible entrance, that will be indicated in Google Maps as well.
As Google states in an announcement, it’s a frustrating experience to arrive somewhere only to then find out it’s not accessible.
“Imagine making plans to go somewhere new, taking the journey to get there and arriving— only to be stuck outside, prevented from sitting with family or being unable to access the restroom.”
Instead, Google says people should be able to know before they go, which is what the company aims to achieve with the new Accessible Places feature.
15 Million Places And Counting
Google Maps currently has wheelchair accessibility information for over 15 million places worldwide.
The number of wheelchair accessible places in Google Maps more than doubled since 2017, largely thanks to information sent in by other Maps users.
Another source of wheelchair accessibility information is store owners themselves, who can provide the info directly in their Google My Business listing.
As Google points out, this update benefits more than the 130 million wheelchair users worldwide, including the over 30 million Americans who have difficulty using stairs.
“With this feature “rollout”, it’s easier to find and contribute wheelchair accessibility information to Google Maps. That benefits everyone, from those of us using wheelchairs and parents pushing strollers to older adults with tired legs and people hauling heavy items.
And in this time of COVID-19, it’s especially important to know before you go so that you won’t be stranded outside that pharmacy, grocery or restaurant.”
Update Available Now
This update to the Google Maps app is available now on Android and iOS.
To use the feature after updating your app to the latest version, go to Settings, select “Accessibility,” and turn on “Accessible Places.”
Also included in the update for iOS users is the ability to more easily contribute accessibility information.
Android users have already had the ability to share this information, iOS users are getting it now for the first time.
With that being the case, the number of wheelchair accessible places in Google Maps could soon grow well beyond 15 million.
Google notes that this update represents a milestone in the company’s journey to build a more accessible Google Maps.
Other recent efforts include app update to help people find accessible places, transit routes, and walking directions.
The Accessible Places feature is now available for Google Maps users in Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. Support for additional countries is coming at a later date.
Matt Southern has been the lead news writer at Search Engine Journal since 2013. With a degree in communications, Matt has an uncanny ability to make the most complex subject matter easy to understand. When he’s not ferociously following and covering the search industry, he’s busy writing SEO-friendly copy that converts.