Google Maps Unveils Wheelchair Accessible Transit Routes

"To make public transit work for everyone, today we’re introducing 'wheelchair accessible' routes in transit navigation to make getting around easier for those with mobility needs," says Google Maps' Rio Akasaka.

Google Maps is filling in an important detail for its transit navigation by giving users the option to check a box that will highlight wheelchair accessible stations.

The addition of wheelchair accessibility is meant to round out other location and direction features on a global basis.

“This feature is rolling out in major metropolitan transit centers around the world, starting with London, New York, Tokyo, Mexico City, Boston, and Sydney,” writes Google Maps Product Manager Rio Akasaka in a blog post. We’re looking forward to working with additional transit agencies in the coming months to bring more wheelchair accessible routes to Google Maps.”

Since the feature is only available in those select cities,  it’s not clear if “wheelchair accessible” routes will also be something that owners of the Google Home voice activated assistant devices will also be able to find by asking “Hey Google, is there a wheelchair accessible route to…” But that’s probably just a matter of time.

The new feature also highlights how Google is getting its information: its roughly 30 million Local Guides. For the past year, Google has examined more ways of inspiring its Local Guides to share more info about the world around them. In order to coax greater frequency of higher quality photos, reviews, as well as corrections of outdated or erroneous business information, Google has rolled out updates to the Local Guides program. The incentives have included a new point system, new levels that unlock different kinds of perks, and new ways to earn points.

And in the case of helping people seeking wheelchair access for transit travel, it appears the Local Guides program is doing some meaningful work.

“In addition to making public transportation more accessible, people around the world have been helping us add accessibility information to Google Maps,” Akasaka writes. “Last September, Local Guides from around the world gathered at 200 global meet-ups to answer accessibility questions—like whether a place has a step-free entrance or an accessible restroom—for more than 12 million places. Additionally, we’ve been busy capturing and updating Street View imagery of transit stations and city centers so people can preview a place or transit station ahead of time.”

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David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.