- Google Maps has partnered with transit agencies in six global cities to allow app users to search for wheelchair-friendly transit stations and routes.
- App users can type in where they want to go and select the public transportation icon, then tap "options" to find "wheelchair accessible" under the type of route.
- The service launched in Boston, New York, London, Mexico City, Sydney and Tokyo, and more cities are expected to be added in the coming months.
Though progress is being made to take disabled populations into consideration when innovating and planning neighborhood upgrades, advocates and industry experts tell Smart Cities Dive that most municipalities still have a long way to go when it comes to inclusivity. In fact, adding technology and various innovations without considering people with disabilities can actually widen the digital divide and create more segregation.
Experts also note that many municipal improvements that help people with disabilities also help aging populations and the community as a whole. Google made a similar claim in its blog post, noting that the new Google Maps feature could be helpful to an injured person who is using crutches or to a person pushing a stroller.
Cities typically do not have the resources to develop their own tech innovations, including those that benefit people with disabilities, though partnering with private sector tech companies can make such plans possible.
Google highlights that its addition of the wheelchair-friendly information on its navigation app came about because of partnerships with the transit agencies in the first six cities to roll out the service. It also pointed out that crowd-sourcing has increased Google Maps' accessibility information at more than 12 million places. For example, users can see if a site has an entrance without steps or an accessible bathroom.