Google maps app takes accessibility indoors

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Thursday, 17 May 2012 09:50am

Update: Google made its Indoor Maps feature available in Australia on 13 March 2013. Indoor maps can be viewed once a user zooms in on a building. The Sydney Morning Herald has published a list of 200 locations in Australia where Google’s indoor maps is available.

An upgrade to the Google Maps app for Android smartphones has the potential to increase mobility for blind and vision impaired users through the introduction of navigation for indoor environments.  The app combines global positioning system (GPS) technology with voice-guided directions to help people find their way around indoor spaces. 

Currently only available in the US and Japan, the 6.7 version of the app allows users to view indoor floor layouts of buildings as well as hear walking directions of participating sites and businesses. Combined with the GPS technology of Google Maps, users are guided indoors by a blue dot that moves with their physical location as well as audible instructions on how to best get to a desired indoor location.

Participating organisations and businesses can give users access to valuable information such as where to find stairs, escalators, wheelchair access, entrances and exits. Users can also find information about the closest amenities and restaurants. This follows the release of Google Maps Indoors last November when Google teamed up with airports and furniture chain Ikea to provide access to their floor plans.

Other features in the software update include Google Business Photos and Google Offers. Google Business Photos provides 360 degree images of indoor spaces, while Google Offers alerts users to nearby retail discounts.

The latest update of the Google Maps app, and its compatibility with Android’s inbuilt assistive technology, is a step towards making the widely used Google Maps accessible to people with a disability.

The app is available for download from Google Play.

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