Google Maps Launches "Wheelchair-Accessible" Public Transit Navigation in Select Cities

This week, Google Maps made some major progress in making its platform more accessible (read: actually usable) for millions of users. The tech giant announced in a blog post on Thursday that its public transportation navigation options will now include a "wheelchair-accessible" feature that filters out those bus, train, and subway options that are not accessible and presents the best possible route for users in wheelchairs and with other physical disabilities. The new feature is only available in six major cities around the world, but if you live in London, New York, Tokyo, Mexico City, Boston, or Sydney, you're in luck. (Google notes in the blog post that they're hoping to roll out the "wheelchair-accessible" option to many more metropolitan areas in the coming months.)

If you do live in one of these cities, it's extremely easy to program Google Maps to show you only accessible routes. All you have to do is enter your start and end points in the app as usual, tap on the public transportation option, and click "Options," where you may have previously chosen between your preferred modes of public transportation and whether you want the fastest route or the one with the fewest transfers. Now, you should see the "wheelchair-accessible" option; tap it and go back to the route options, and you'll only see start, end, and transfer points that take place at stations accessible to everyone, including those who are in a wheelchair on crutches.

Google also notes that they've introduced other features to the app in the past year to increase accessibility. Google Maps users can now add accessibility details about restaurants, stores, and attractions to each location's information page, where other users can check to see whether a place has a step-free entrance or wheelchair-friendly restroom. Additionally, they've sent Street View cameras into transit stations and other busy areas so users can take a peek at a place ahead of time and make sure they'll be able to get in and out with ease.

Catherine James