How accessibility maps make life easier
Paramap.ch and Google Maps will help you find accessible places.
Do you know the problem? You are meeting up with someone but don’t know the place and you have no idea whether the location is wheelchair-accessible? Or you are on a city trip and don’t know which sites you can access with a wheelchair? And many shops and restaurants do not have wheelchair accessible washrooms.
We live in the 21st century and yet, these things are still a problem. Each daytrip and each trip have to be inspected and planned meticulously for accessibility reasons. We are presenting you a solution today – the so-called Accessibility Maps.
What are accessibility maps?
Accessibility Maps are digital map services that can be viewed and amended by the users. This information can be about accessible shops and restaurants, the availability of accessible washrooms and parking spots or the number of wheelchair accessible rooms in a hotel.
With the right map, wheelchair users are no longer dependent on being lucky or having local knowledge in order to find certain amenities but they may also search spontaneously for the nearest wheelchair accessible washroom.
Two accessibility maps – one underlying idea
We are presenting to you two of the above described map services which you may not only use but you may also add information yourselves. If you are adding something to one map, it would be best to also add the same information to the other one since not everyone searches for information on the same platform. You are thus helping all wheelchair users in Switzerland to make being out and about more comfortable.
Paramap.ch: the first comprehensive accessibility map in Switzerland
Paramap.ch is a service of Swiss Paraplegic Association. It clearly shows places which are of special interest to wheelchair users (so-called points of interest, POI): Disabled parking (with picture), Eurokey washrooms, accessible hotels and ATMs. Paramap.ch is limited to Switzerland and provides detailed and useful information about each POI. See for yourselves at https://www.paramap.ch/!
Everyone can add more POI of one of the four categories above. You only need to add the address and a short description of the POI. After verifying the information, the providers of the site will add it to the map.
The website Paramap.ch is also available as free app for iOS and Android.
Google Maps: more information about accessibility
A bit more than a year ago, Google announced that the popular service Google Maps and the Local Guides Program will put more focus on the topic accessibility. How so? First, users can actively add missing information on accessibility of places on Google Maps and, second, they will automatically be asked for information about accessibility when entering a new location. This function is currently only available for Android mobile phones. However, the service is supposed to be available for iOS and desktop computers shortly.
In order to amend information, the user needs to sign in with a Google account in the Android Maps App. Then under
Menu => My Contributions => “Improve the map in your area” / Find missing information => Sort by Accessibility
you will find a large number of shops, physicians, restaurants, government offices etc. which show missing information in respect of their accessibility. If you know one of these places, you can simply add the information that Google is asking for. The questions are also asked if you write a regular review about a location and answer a few questions afterward. Further information can be found in this announcement by Google (in English) and by following this link (in German).
If you register as Google Local Guide (here the link), you can also attach pictures and reviews to each location on Google Maps. Thus you can leave important indications for wheelchair users also on iOS smart phones – e.g. pictures of restaurant entrances and reviews of the services for wheelchair users.
Another exciting option for Google Local Guides is creating events in a simple way: Google Local Guide Meetup. Why not organize a tour through wheelchair accessible restaurants? In this video, Google provides tips for people who want to organize a meetup:
Conclusion: We need an active community!
Currently, these two services still have important limitations. While Google offers its users the option to view the characteristics for wheelchair users for each location, not all POI for wheelchair users can be shown in an overview on the map. This is where the Paramap of Swiss Paraplegic Association plays a critical role. It allows to create a useful overview of an area to see where parking, staying for the night, getting cash or using a washroom is possible without problems.
Beside these two mapping services for accessible locations, there are others which are especially interesting if you are outside of Switzerland – for more information read this blog post on the Community page.
We highly recommend using these services to every wheelchair user as well as contributing to these communities and the exchange with other members. Crowdsourcing projects can only ever be as good as the community that is behind them. This is our chance to make life easier for all wheelchair users in Switzerland!
Which services do you use in order to inform yourselves about accessibility? What do you suggest should be improved within the apps that you have already been using?
[translation from the original German blog post]