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Google Maps In London Offers Wheelchair Friendly Routes

March 19, 2018

Wheelchair users travelling in London and other worldwide cities on public transport can now get accessibility information from Google Maps.

Users will be able to filter for “wheelchair accessible” advice when planning journeys in the capital.

However disability groups warned the information needs to be up-to-date and accurate in order to be helpful.

The service is initially available on desktop and will be rolling out across iPhone and Android devices.

It has also been launched in New York, Tokyo, Mexico City, Boston, and Sydney with plans to roll it out across other locations.

The London information covers the underground, bus, DLR and tram networks and will be added for the overground at a later date.

‘Not entirely accurate’

Alan Benson, chair of disability access group Transport for All said: “Getting around the London network on a restricted basis takes a lot of knowledge and confidence, something that I have built up over many years.

“For someone that does not have that knowledge it can be quite daunting. However having accessibility information in an app the same as everyone else is great.

“The problem is however that the information is not entirely accurate.”

Mr Benson warned for example, that the lifts at Brixton underground station are going to be out of action until September and this information is not included in the Google Maps feature.

He said: “The wrong information is worse than no information. If you don’t have any information you won’t take the journey. The wrong information will destroy people’s confidence.”

The new feature was announced by Google Maps product manager, Rio Akasaka in a blog post.

He said: “Information about which stations and routes are wheelchair friendly isn’t always readily available or easy to find.

“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.”

Google said that before launching the feature it had tested it with various wheelchair users and accessibility groups.

The route information is also supplemented by the knowledge of an area of local people, who can add accessibility information to Google Maps directly.

‘Most accessible walking route’

Ellis Palmer, a BBC reporter and wheelchair user, welcomed the news from Google and highlighted the challenges that he and others with accessibility needs face.

He said: “Anything that makes it easier to get around London as a wheelchair user is always welcome.

“The big problem in getting around London is that only 73 stations are accessible for wheelchair users in any way shape or form.

“Only 50 can be accessed independently and autonomously by wheelchair users without any need for assistance by station staff.

“Buses, however, are 100% accessible, but only have one space for a wheelchair/scooter user – making it difficult if one wants to travel with others with limited mobility.”

Mr Palmer added: “Aside from looking at just public transport options, it would be great if the Google Maps application told the user the most accessible walking route: trying to get around town can be extremely difficult when you find your journey interrupted by pavements that are not level.

“Google’s creation can be a push forward for access in the capital, but only if we recognise there’s still a long way to go before disabled people are able to get around the city the same as their able-bodied counterparts.”

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