Google is introducing a new Accessible Places feature to Maps and search that the company says will make it easier for wheelchair users to see if a location they want to visit is accommodating to their needs. When you enable the functionality, you'll see a wheelchair icon whenever a business or public venue has an accessible entrance. You'll also be able to see if it has accessible seating, washrooms and or parking. What's more, if a destination doesn't have an entrance that is accommodating to different mobility needs, Maps will more explicitly show that information.
You can enable the feature by updating to the latest version of Maps on Android and iOS, and toggling the "Accessible Places" option within the accessibility section of the app's settings menu. Google also plans to make it easier for Maps users on iOS to contribute accessibility information with an update it plans to begin rolling out next week.
Since 2016, Google has done a better job of making Maps more useful to wheelchair users and those with limited mobility. In 2018, for instance, it added a feature that lets you find accessible transit routes. With the help of crowdsourcing, the company says Maps now has accessibility-related information on more than 15 million places across the world. As the company points out, highlighting locations that make entering and exiting easy is useful to a variety of people (as parents with strollers can attest), not just those who depend on wheelchairs.
Google says it plans to roll out the accessible places functionality to users gradually beginning today with people who live in the US, Australia, Japan and the UK, with availability in other countries to follow.