These Google employees used their ’20 percent’ time to improve Maps for people in wheelchairs

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These Google employees used their ’20 percent’ time to improve Maps for people in wheelchairs

Blair-Goldensohn expects more locations to join. A day after the product launched, a co-worker told him that the transit authority in an Argentine city had expressed interest.

“Just having it out in the world is the best way to move the product forward, both in terms of getting feedback from users, from transit authorities and even from within Google,” Blair-Goldensohn told CNBC.

The project took off about two years ago, when Blair-Goldensohn and two other employees, Rio Akasaka and Diana Hsu, took it on as a “20 percent project,” a Google initiative that employees pursue outside of their formal workload.

“There’s a major underserved population and [Maps] is a major opportunity,” Blair-Goldensohn said. “But, like with everything, you have to be your own advocate. It took a while to find allies within Google, within Google Maps.”

The group made a “proof of concept,” and then got the go-ahead to move forward. Last year, Google also introduced new accessibility details to Maps and asked users to add information to as many places as possible, with the aim of helping the 65 million people worldwide who need a wheelchair as well as people who are pushing strollers, using crutches, or lugging suitcases.

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