Google has introduced a new feature to Google Maps aimed at helping those with mobility needs. Starting today, in London, New York, Tokyo, Mexico City, Boston, and Sydney wheelchair accessible routes are available and it's the start of something that for many will serve as a life-changing addition. To highlight how life-changing, I borrowed a bit from my friend and colleague Jerry Hildenbrand.
This isn't a complicated bit of news to understand, but how it can touch the lives of millions around the world might be. I can't speak for everyone in a wheelchair, but I know how different the world can be when you're stuck in one.
I've been confined to a wheelchair on and off for 15 years and full-time for the past five. So many of the things I used to take for granted are now problematic, sometimes to the point where I lost any desire to do them. Grabbing a train or bus to head downtown is one of them because getting "stuck" is heartbreaking and embarrassing. And it happens a lot more than you may think; any outing that's new brings apprehension and worry that it may be cut short because there is no way to wheel myself from point A to point B. Something like flying out to Google I/O is fun and exciting for most everyone making the trip but for me, it means anxiety from the moment I say goodbye to my wife until the moment I say hello to a familiar face at the other end.
Accessibility goes beyond those of us in a chair, too. Anyone who has a tougher time getting around may need a ramp or an elevator, as do people with strollers or any type of cart. It's just as easy to get stuck trying to push the kids or a bunch of tools from one place to another and just as frustrating when it happens. Hopefully, we see the feature in more places soon.
Accessing the options in Google Maps is easy, Tap "Directions" then select the public transportation icon. Then tap "Options" and under the Routes section, you'll find "wheelchair accessible" as a new route type. Google notes they will be working with additional transit agencies in the next few months to get even more wheelchair accessible routes into Google Maps.