Google Accessible Map Concept

How can we help people with disabilities benefit from technology?

Design to Include


In winter of 2013, a graduate classmate and I believed that the mobile Google map would benefit from a redesign that includes an accessibility option to help people navigate safely. We created a mockup and presentation to demonstrate the possibilities.

Our presentation raised awareness and sparked community interest. A number of projects on this topic emerged and continuue to gain wider attention. Online petitions also followed. In 2017, Google released this feature live (Thank you Google).

Note: We were not part of Google product development, but realizing that this product finally came to live we were grateful. We are more encouraged to continue making effort to raise community awareness, and to make the world a better place.

Graduate Project. Duration: 3 months. Team size: 2.

Narrowing Our Gap in Technology

Technology has provided us with incredible convenience - from shopping with one click to food delivery in minutes. Those who are capable become more capable, but those with special needs continue to face challenges in their daily lives. Design and technology could do more to help improve.


Grounded in "Value-Sensitive Design" theory (Friedman, et al), our goal was to raise awareness for accessibility and inclusion.
A new layer of disability information on existing Google map (2013).
"... technology is biased if it systematically and unfairly discriminates against certain individuals or groups of individuals in favor of others."
Value-Senstive Design. Friedman, 1996.

Severity Indicators & Route options

Users are informed of potential unsafe spots and route options.

Share cautionary areas

Users can report, rate, and share comments with the community.
Street view. User can read other the community message at the location.

Street view. User can post notes to warn others of unsafe location.

Mark location to add notes.
Rate and add comment.
Report an incident at a location.

"Particularly nice design, very thoughtful and well executed."

Professor, HCDE 505 - Computer Assisted Communication 2013.

Link to Axure prototype.

Final Words

If you are, or know someone who rely on wheelchairs, you would have experienced the pain and inconvenience of navigating, something that others would hardly understand.

This project was inspired by my former colleage at Microsoft, Kathy Dixon, who is on wheelchair all her life. She made me realize we are living in such an imperfect world where we MUST design for inclusion.

Thank you Google for making this a reality, and Trevor Johnson for working me at the University of Washington.

Related News

Google Maps now shows if a location is wheelchair accessible
Google Maps Wants to Improve Its Wheelchair-Accessible Routes with Crowdsourced Data