While at the ATIA conference in January 2020 I had the pleasure of connecting with several project groups within Google regarding their efforts toward making their products more accessible. These efforts span their physical products (i.e. Google home smart speakers) and their digital products (i.e. Google Maps).
Needless to say, I was pretty excited to hear about their intentionality in the many ways they are working on incorporating Universal Design into their products as they come to realize that features they designed to support one user group are used and of value to the masses. Case and point- on the Google Home mini there are lights that flash when the device is listening. They initially incorporated audible beeps to indicate the start/stop listening for users who are visually impaired or Blind. However, they came to realize that most users relied on this feature.
While talking with the Google Maps team we spoke at length about how they gather and share information about the accessibility of businesses in communities. Currently, the information on accessibility is limited to those features related to physically being able to access the environment – parking, entrance, restroom and sometimes seating.
For members of our community who require accessible features in order to patronize a business or venue, it is imperative that this information is accurate. Imagine how you would feel if you were told a business had an accessible restroom, but upon being there and needing to use the restroom you discovered that it was not actually accessible. Not only does this hinder the individual’s ability to engage with local businesses and community, but it can affect the business’ reputation and future business as well.
So, HOW does Google gather and verify this information?
Stage Right: Enter the Google Local Guides
What is a Google Local Guide?
The idea is for Local Guides contributors to help improve Google Maps by informing users about businesses via real feedback based on their personal experiences. For additional information visit https://www.online-tech-tips.com/google-softwaretips/what-is-local-guides-for-google-maps/.
Right now this information comes from the people, Local Guides, in the community who are visiting these businesses and locations. When you turn on your location options and/or use Google Maps to locate your destination, as a Google Local Guide, you will have the opportunity to submit information back to the Google team regarding the accessibility of the location. They then compile all responses on that specific location and update the information provided about the location in Google maps.
How do you get set up to be a Google Local Guide?
Google has put together several resources on how to configure your settings to be a Local Guide through the Google Map settings. I have shared several of those links at the end for you to explore so that we can focus our time together on the value in contributing to this effort.
Why should you submit feedback?
Providing first-hand feedback from within your community not only helps improve the accuracy of Google Maps, but ultimately it helps members of the community identify if a venue will meet all of their interests and needs. This benefits those living in your community, but also those visiting and looking for businesses or services that are accessible to them. And just think, if people in every community were doing this, we would all be assured to find places that accommodate our needs no matter where we travel!
Your input can make a difference in how people access businesses and services in our communities!
Check out the impact of one Local Guide: https://www.localguidesconnect.com/t5/General-Discussion/Meet-Accessibility-Champion-Jesica/td-p/1637371
Did you know that you can earn rewards through Google for your contributions?
“Being a Local Guide doesn’t just provide your community with valuable information. You also get early access to Google features and special perks from Google’s partners. Beyond those Local Guide benefits are badges and recognition by other users. The more you contribute, the more points you earn, which other users can see when they run across your profile on Google Maps.”
“I am now a Local Guide. How and what can I contribute?”
#1 Make sure your location settings are turned on in your Google Maps, then:
- In your Google Map settings go to your profile and choose “contribute”.
a. Then write a review- pictures added bonus – of places you have visited and
b. Scroll to “more ways to share” and choose answer questions about businesses you
- Submit a Google Reviews of public spaces and include additional accessibility information within your narrative. Google Maps only list wheelchair accessibility for parking and entrance in the business profile, but you can include additional information about accessibility features in your review (i.e. did they have a hearing loop system, how accessible were the bathrooms, family/companion restrooms, flexibility in seating to accommodate mobility devices such as wheelchairs and walkers etc). When you answer questions about locations the answers are yes/no and you do not have the ability to put additional details that might be helpful. For example, an accessible entrance does not require an automatic door opener. But, in a Google Review you can indicate whether the entrance has these additional features.
- When Google Maps asks you to answer questions about a place – do it! Click here to learn more about answering location specific questions.
What does the future hold for Accessibility information provided within Google Maps?
The scope of accessibility information gathered through the Local Guides program will hopefully continue to expand and be refined so that Google Maps can capture details on accessible features and users can filter business options more specific to their needs.
Is your business interested in a comprehensive review of the accessibility of your building and services?
Contact Assistology today to discuss how we can help you ensure your business environments and services are truly accessible to your clients and visitors.
- This article not only explains aspects of being a local guide, but instructs on how to configure your Google Map settings to become a local guide.
- Google resources:
- The Ability App: https://theabilityapp.com/