Google Maps has been receiving several new features recently, making the mapping app more valuable to its users.
In a small but very important update, Google Maps has added a feature that will show whether a location is accessible by wheelchair, in what is the result of the efforts of a group of Google employees who dedicated a significant amount of their time for the cause.
Google 20 Percent Time Policy
One of the famous policies of Google is that its employees are allowed to spend 20 percent of their time on projects that are not related to their main functions in the company. Among products that resulted from this 20 percent policy are Gmail, Google News, and AdSense, all of which are now among the company's main offerings.
Today, most Google employees forego the privilege. However, Google Drive product manager Rio Akasaka took advantage of the policy, using 20 percent of his time to incorporate accessibility features to Google Maps.
Adding Accessibility Information To Google Maps
Google Maps is a powerful tool, with information displayed for locations and in the mapping service including opening times, reviews, how busy the places are, and calendar events associated with places.
Alongside all these information, Google Maps will now be displaying information that will benefit people with disabilities and special needs.
Google Maps will be sourcing the information from Local Guides, who are users of the service who answer questions on certain locations. Earlier this year, questions regarding accessibility were added to the list being answered by the Local Guides, and with millions of answers now collected, Google will now be displaying the information.
"Accessibility at Google is a big deal," said Akasaka in an interview with Business Insider, though adding that work by Google on accessibility is often due to requirements. There are no rules for requiring accessibility information in mapping services though, which gave Akasaka and his team of a handful of other Googlers the necessary push to get their project going.
Google Maps Accessibility Features
To get wheelchair accessibility information in Google Maps, users will need to go to the Amenities section of locations that are featured in the mapping service. Users are also given the option to add information regarding the location in the same screen.
The feature, despite being already rolled out by Google, is still incomplete though. With the information necessary to the feature coming from user input, there remain some gaps in coverage. In addition, it is only available in the United States.
However, for people on wheelchairs, the feature will surely be an important one, as any information on accessibility is better than no information at all.