Belinda Bradley Launches Petition for Wheelchair-Friendly Google Maps Routes

Google maps is a useful, widely used tool for navigating by car, transit or foot. However, certain routes — those with stairs or terrains incompatible with mobility devices — can be inaccessible if you have a disability. Google does not currently offer accessible alternate routes — something 19-year old Belinda Bradley hopes to change with her recent petition.

The petition’s goal is to persuade Google to add more accessible routes to their Google Maps tool. Bradley, whose mother uses a wheelchair, started the petition after attempting to travel around London for the past year alongside people who live with a range of disabilities. “We found that all routes provided by Google Maps demanded stairs, bumpy paths, small hills, foot bridges, crossings without slopes and many times there was no room on the pavement for the chair, ” she wrote in her petition.

Bradley also points out how very few tube stations are disability friendly — a major issue for people with disabilities who live in large cities. Only 70 of the 270 stations across London are step-free, making it difficult to find a safe and accessible public transit routes.

Oftentimes, Bradley said, her group was forced to travel along bike lanes or travel in the opposite direction of their destination until they found a safe path. “We should be advancing and making sure everyone has equal opportunities to be independent,” she wrote.

Bradley hopes to get 150,000 signatures, after which her petition will be delivered to Google. As of Thursday, the petition is 40,000 signatures away from its goal.

Other apps have already taken steps to offer ease-of-access to people with disabilities. Mayaan Ziv, who lives with muscular dystrophy created AccessNow, which uses crowdsourcing to share accessible spots around Toronto.  Additionally, Jason Da Silva, a filmmaker who lives with multiple sclerosis, created AXSmap so that users can virtually visit a location and assess its accessibility before physically visiting it.

Last month, Google Maps added an accessibility feature that allows users to add information to business listings to let other users know whether a location is disability friendly. Should Google act upon Bradley’s petition, users with disabilities will have safe, easy ways to access these locations.

In an update posted last week, Bradley thanked the petition supporters. “I started this petition on my mum’s birthday knowing that I owed it to her, my family and the millions dealing with these issues to create a movement and change what is an act of discrimination,” she said.

The Mighty has reached out to and Google for comment and has yet to hear back.

Header credit: Twitter

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