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Google Maps & Apple Maps – two useful accessibility tips

Using real-time maps on our smartphones has become an essential feature when navigating to different locations. Whether you prefer Google Maps or Apple Maps, there are a number of accessibility features in both apps which have been added over the past six months or so, but I’ve noticed that many people aren’t aware of the features.  As such, here’s two particularly useful tips to provide you with some additional information.

Google Maps – find out if a location is wheelchair-accessible

In late 2016, Google quietly added a feature to its Maps app for people in the US which provides information as to whether a selected location is wheelchair-accessible.  The is not specifically owned or collected by Google and there are many gaps, but as the service expands its likely to provide enough information to determine if a venue you are intending to visit will be a viable option before leaving home. There’s no specific information as to the rollout dates for other countries but Google have indicated they plan to continue expanding the service.

Importantly though this does not address one of the common complaints of mapping software which is the fact that maps don’t effectively indicate the topographical nature of a location. As a result, wheelchair users should still be wary of unexpected steep slopes or inclines when arriving at a new location. That said, it’s encouraging to see accessibility-specific information being included and it’s likely that information for wheelchair users will only get better in time. For additional information on the feature, please refer to the YouTube video on the wheelchair location feature in Google Maps

Apple Maps – points of interest

It’s fair to say that when Apple Maps launched in 2012 it had a pretty rocky start. However, its improved considerably over the years and now includes a useful Point of Interest feature that is proving very helpful to people who are blind or vision impaired.

To access this feature, start Apple Maps and start navigating to your destination. To find out what points of interest are near your location as you travel along the route, swipe up on the menu bar to pull up an overlay which will display different categories. You can then go into the category you are looking for, such as food, and it will provide you with nearby options. This is very helpful as it enables people with vision-related disabilities to quickly find out what’s near them as they travel without interrupting the overall journey.  It is also possible to add a nearby point of interest to the journey plan. Additional information can be found in the Maps for iOS section of the Apple website.

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