Google Maps Access

🇺🇸 version

Mi padre y yo

My story begins like this, with a black and white photo of me smiling and sitting next to this “ handsome” man. If this were an out loud comment I would already be listening….

  • Ana, why are you posting that picture? The one who would be protesting; my father.

Maybe it’s not the best way to start talking about a project, it’s supposed to be something serious and you have to keep a certain formality, but I prefer to tell it naturally, with some humor to make it more enjoyable when you read it. You won’t believe me if I tell you that this project is the first one I thought of when I became a UX designer. At that precise moment I didn’t really know what to do but I had the intuition that with time something would come to my mind and it seems that it has. As I don’t want to waste any more of your time, what do you think if I start the story at the beginning?

My father suffered a work accident more than 26 years ago, this has left him paraplegic from the middle of his chest down, so he does not feel anything at all. At that time I was only 10 years old and although it was a very hard blow for the whole family it was also a big change in all aspects and of course a challenge for him, let’s say that for him it was like starting his life again from scratch. I was very young when all this happened but I have some memories…. I remember the car trips when I went to the hospital to see him, I remember one in particular when I let go of my mother’s hand and sneaked up to the ICU floor where he was to take him paper boats I made with the comics they bought for me, I remember the first visit I made to him after his accident, my mother was explaining to me why dad could not walk and how I at that very moment lifted the sheet and saw his legs and said — look mom, he can walk, tell him! It makes me laugh to remember these things I did when I was little, how differently I faced situations and how I reasoned them, I think it is because I did not see the bad side of anything, I always told them — nothing happened, we are still together, and that’s how it is.

Something that my father promised himself is that he wanted to regain his freedom and so he took a car again and learned to drive, this time only with his hands, with a steering wheel similar to those of F1, and my father was 39 years old when this happened to him… it is normal that he wanted to be independent, you are young and you want to live. I know that my father deals with his battles every day and that he has a lot of neuropathic pain, a pain he suffers as a result of the accident because his spinal cord was damaged, and to this day it is still his biggest nightmare. And yes, for a while this nightmare has led us to travel halfway around the world, looking for some solution to help him get better, so much so that in less than 2 years we had visited the best hospitals in London and New York, not to mention the monthly visits we made to the pain clinic in Barcelona or his unsuccessful operation in Portugal. In short, we can say that we have spent half our lives dancing from here to there, carrying on our backs a backpack full of treatments, operations and medications. We can be sure that we have gambled until the end, thinking that someday something or someone would make this pain disappear or subside so that he could have a better quality of life…

I can’t make my father walk again no matter how much I want him to, but I can offer him something and that something is called “Accessibility”. I want to dedicate this project to all those people who, like my father, suffer some kind of disability. I want to contribute to the cause in some way to make their lives a little easier. Shall we start?

👨‍💻 Research

As I was telling you before, this project is loaded with years and years of information, of everyday situations. So I want to ask you this question: What difficulties can you find in your daily life? I want you to reflect and make a metal list of the things that are repeated the most, this same question I asked myself and I also asked my father: What difficulties do you find in your daily life, dad? and this was his answer.

  • Moving from the chair to the shower.
  • Moving from the chair to the bed.
  • Getting dressed.
  • Getting into the car.
  • Going outside and moving anywhere.

This is my father’s routine and it all takes a lot of effort on his part. We all find it hard to do something and not every day is the same, but it is true that we like everything around us to work, I can imagine situations like… finding a place to park the car, waiting in line to buy bread, arriving on time for an appointment, being in 5 minutes in the other part of the city… I am talking about things that happen to all of us, the traffic… and it is that many times we get on our nerves because we have already started the day badly, and if we add to this having a physical disability we would find the difficulties multiplied by two. Think that a person who moves in a wheelchair has to count on extra time to do their things and with questions like these: How can I get there?, Are there any stairs?, Is there a handicapped parking space?, Where is the access?(sidewalk, steps, pavement…), all this goes through his head in a matter of seconds, we do not see it, we do not even think about it, but today we are going to change things and for a while we are going to put ourselves in his place in some way and see things from another perspective, “sitting in a wheelchair”.

I share a map with pictures detailing the route my father takes to get around the city, he studies each sidewalk and then draws his own map to know where he can go.

Map of my father’s tour of the city center

🧑🏻‍🦽Deskresearch

The starting point of the research is clear, we are looking for accessibility to move comfortably around the city, we will make a list of questions, the famous (research questions) to discard those that are already solved and which are not yet solved.

  • What information about handicapped spaces on google maps or other application is available?
  • Where can the user be informed about the accessibility of the place?
  • Is there any page or application for a handicapped tourist?
  • How many establishments indicate their accessibility on the Internet?
  • How can the user know if the area is comfortable to move around in?
  • What is the best way to move around the city in a wheelchair?

These are some of the questions we have asked ourselves when traveling with my father and I can assure you that many of them do not have a specific place to answer them or you spend hours in front of Google consulting everything and reading old blogs of people in wheelchairs who have visited a city, or you end up getting bored and you call the establishments and they inform you of what they know. But the big dilemma is that no one has 100% accurate information and although it sounds a bit demanding, the simple fact that some areas are not designed for a disabled person is not enough to think “you have to adapt” because they already do and people who can walk do not see the great difficulty for them. This goes much further, it is not the character of a person, it is not their value that we are analyzing, it is mobility. There are patients like my father who suffer from spinal pain, who have spasms that make them have a very bad time. The simple fact of encountering a cobblestone road or a facility with stairs can destabilize the person and cause more pain. It is not easy to push a person in a wheelchair up a flight of stairs, and they have the feeling that they are not safe and may fall.

So how might we…? How can we help improve accessibility for people with disabilities? Now we have our key question, let’s see what the market has to offer.

🧑🏻‍🦽Benchmarking

This application, created and designed by the Vodafone Foundation, is perhaps the most complete in terms of functions. It has a community of people who help each other to inform about access sites for disabled people as well as for people with other disabilities (blind, deaf-mute…). Its functions include highlighting places of interest, restaurants, parking areas, accommodations and visits to monuments. I think it is very good but from the reviews it has few and seems to give problems when installing it, what I have noticed is that it only informs you of what is indicated as accessible to the disabled but there are many cities on the map that are not documented and therefore we would already have a drawback.

Pros

  • Handicapped accessible areas.
  • Parking.
  • Places of interest.
  • Community Forum (information).

Cons

  • Application with download problems.
  • Few accessible places.
  • There is no information on how to move around the city

This is an application to find parking spaces for the disabled, but from what I have read about it, it is used more to report if these spaces have been occupied by vehicles without a license for it. It explains the whole process to be carried out in case you find yourself in such a situation. Let’s say that in this way we encourage respect for people who have a disability, but although this works for those whose vehicles do not have a handicapped license, how do we control those people who use the licenses to park in handicapped zones and really do not have any disability?

Pros

  • Handicapped parking.
  • Denounce the use of handicapped parking places.
  • Community Forum (information).

Cons

  • There is no information on how to move around the city
  • There is no information about handicapped accessible areas.

The use of this application allows you to see the parking spaces in any city. By entering the name of the city where you are, it will show you the nearest parking spaces according to your location, it is very useful if you are visiting another city. On the other hand allows the user to add new places if you see that these are not reflected. It is very convenient if you travel by car, apparently there is no comment on how it is working.

Pros

  • Disabled parking warning.
  • The user can add new parking spaces

Cons

  • There is no information on how to move around the city
  • There is no information about handicapped accessible areas.

Finally this application of the Vodafone Spain foundation, which allows the user the most accessible points in the city that is, order a cab adapted and find entertainment venues, gas stations, where to eat and accommodation. It is, like the first app I showed you, quite useful and complete. The problem is that I can’t find it to download it and I don’t have reviews of people who may be using it.

Pros

  • It informs about areas adapted for handicapped people and places to eat, to sleep, Gas Station area…
  • The user can add new parking spaces

Cons

  • There are no reviews of how the app is working.

Having concluded with the analysis of these applications, I have noticed that there are very few applications intended for use by people with disabilities. This may be because they are not known, or they are not working properly. My reflection is that when an app has few downloads and the reviews are scarce the user loses interest in downloading it.

What is the user looking for?

  • To have access to information to move around the city.
  • It can be a new app or one that already exists in the market.
  • It must have updated information.

What problems does the user usually have?

  • The download does not download correctly.
  • The user has to create a user profile.

What needs should the application cover?

  • Information of how the street is.
  • Indication of the access to the establishments.
  • Information on how to get to the points of interest indicating the best way to get there.

🎤Interviews

My dad

Work accident: 26 years in a chair.
For respect to these people I have decided not to reveal their personal data.
He says that his daily routine is very calculated with an exact time to do everything such as getting up, washing, dressing and breakfast. Moving from the chair to another place is more and more difficult for him.

“When are your arms that support the weight of your whole body you have to be in very good shape if you want to maintain that agility and be independent for longer.”

“I feel that getting around in a chair to go places is becoming more and more difficult for me, I have to study which way will be more comfortable and find few curb cuts.”

“In my city I try to manage as best I can, there are areas I haven’t passed through for a long time, streets that I used to go up with the chair that are now impossible for me and ramps that have been built later in some establishments that do not comply with the regulations.”

“Many times I have to cancel my plans because the places people go to are not adapted for the disabled and in order not to be uncomfortable and have people constantly looking out for me I prefer not to go.”

“When I traveled I had to book a hotel where the room complied with certain details, for example that the bathroom was adapted did not mean that we needed a shower with a seat, that is for elderly people or people with reduced mobility, a paraplegic person needs a bathtub. The bathroom has to be wide enough for the chair to get in and turn around and the doors to the room have to be a certain width by law. These are some of the things we have to keep in mind when we travel.”

“When we go out to eat there must be good access to the establishment and a bathroom for the disabled and the tables in the premises must comply with certain measures… the height or the position of the table legs influences when placing the chair under it. We can’t sit on a chair because we have no support for our body, nor can we lower our legs from the footrest because our body leans forward and if there is a table leg in the middle we are too far away from the table.”

A friend

Injured athlete: 31 years old in a wheelchair.

He had an accident at a very young age during a sporting competition.
He has been in a wheelchair for half his life, but he is unbeatable. His sporting career led him to continue competing and his willpower to think like this, “the chair is just stuck to our ass”. He has traveled all over the world, always looking for his independence.

“I get up every morning and go swimming in the pool, I follow a set routine, there are days I feel better than others but I have to do it. I wash up, have breakfast and get to work”.

Perhaps the difficulties I found were greater in the city I lived in before, the fact of going somewhere was a challenge for me,” he said. Maybe in the main streets of a city you can find handicapped parking spaces more easily, but when you go to a restaurant outside the city it is usually more difficult.

“In Spain the parking spaces are very small, and many of them are in very dangerous places to open a door and get out. I have traveled in many countries and I notice these differences.

“We need smooth floors and wide sidewalks to be able to move with the chair, large parking spaces. When you are a very young person you have a lot of vitality and a lot of energy and you feel you can handle anything, but as you get older you realize that things change, you can have that vitality or that inner strength but you don’t understand that the world is still not adapted for people like us.”

Second part

💁🏻‍♂️ Analyze

One of the things that I love when you read a book is that as you move forward with each page your mind is recreating scenarios, imagining how will be those places, the dialogue … even put a face to the characters, that imagination that we give is what drives us to keep reading. So far we know what this story is about, as if it were a prologue and in the first chapter we have described the scenarios and how life happens in them.

Now it is time to bring it to life, we are going to add characters who will help us to understand and guide our project towards a solution. We are here to help them, so let’s see how.

User persona

The categorization of my character goes a little bit in reference to already known profiles. Tony is a journalist, he works for a sports magazine. He has been in a chair for half his life, his eagerness for risky sports has led him to a serious spinal cord injury, the fact that he had an accident at a very young age has meant that he has had to overcome countless battles. Today, at 47 years old, he boasts of his physical agility, everything is due to an effort to stay healthy, doing sports and not exceeding the weight to be able to move his whole body, happy with his life he continues to encourage people like him who decide to fight every day to live.

Journey map

While we already know a little bit about who Tony is and what he does, let’s take a look at his routine, what he does and what problems he faces.

Tony has a daily routine, he gets up early in the morning so that he has time to do sports, have breakfast and wash up. As soon as he is ready, he gets ready to work in front of the computer, chat with his colleagues at work and go out to do his business. When he goes to nearby places, he decides to use a wheelchair, since driving downtown and finding a place to park is usually a bit complicated. The problem of going out to the street is the route that takes him to his meeting point, most of the streets are slopes and have inadequate recesses, some sidewalks even have tile or cobblestone that makes it difficult to pass without forgetting the ones that are under construction and cut. For Tony all this becomes an odyssey that generates stress and fatigue, however he has to do it. When he arrives at the establishment again he finds another barrier, a step that he can not overcome and therefore has to ask for the help of a kind person to help him tilt the chair. Not very convinced of his decision he puts himself in the hands of a stranger who does not know if he will be able to make that maneuver without falling out of the chair. “You may find the latter unethical, but it’s not easy to tilt a chair because it has to be counterbalanced and both people may end up injuring themselves.” Finally, having achieved his goal, Tony has to find a way back home that is more comfortable and not too steep, since the way there is no good for him.

Pain points

After reading this, what would you think, our friend Tony is making it very difficult for us. His routine suffers from constant difficulties that more than one would find difficult to remedy, but we are here to help him, so let’s make a list of the points that we consider key to our project.

  • Find the best route to go to your meeting point.
  • Information on how the road is (sidewalks, steps, type of ground…).
  • Information about the place where you have to go (if it has steps, suitable for disabled people…).
  • Find the best route from your location for your return.

Information architecture

It is time for us to look for solutions, ways to help Tony to improve his accessibility, designing flowcharts will help us to understand the behavior of our app.

whimsical image

I’ve thought about this flow several times, my idea was to make only App, but I know that there are people who feel more comfortable if they don’t have many applications or on the contrary they are faithful to search everything in Google. So in this way and with little change in its usefulness I have redesigned both options.

whimsical image

👩‍🎨 CREATE

I was really looking forward to this moment, I feel that I can see how it will be, you start by making some sketches in your head and then you finish them on paper, I don’t know about you but I am more of a hand-drawer, I like to make notes in pencil . As I have been telling you there will be two ways to handle this application, so I will represent both flows.

Web/app flow

If our user is more of a Google search engine user, this will be the option of choice. Here is a brief summary of what you can do in the case of starting a route:

On route

1- Consult map
2- Search for your destination.
3- Then choose your starting point or current location.
4- Route options, offering in first place the one that best suits him/her.
5- The user chooses the route and the way to move.
6- Chosen route, visual map. Hit start!!!
7-Information about the route, whether the user is on the route or not, he will be able to know how the road is at all times.

representation of some handmade wireframes.

Search for a local

The procedure is the same as in the previous situation, and apart from offering the usual information you can check the conditions of the place and if it is adapted for people with reduced mobility. I think it is very important that this is detailed, it is not the first time you get to a site warning that a person in a wheelchair and then you find that the local does not meet any of the conditions.

1- Consult map
2- Search for the establishment
3- Locate it on the map
4-Handicapped access information

App flow

The other option, the mobile application. If the user wants to get more out of its use this would be the right one, besides being able to do the same as on the web, the user will have the following actions:

1- Home screen, very similar to the web. It has quick access to explore and start a route.

2- Save information. Let’s say the user wants to highlight a place visited or save a location from here, he can do it by simply selecting one of them.

3- Warnings. As it is an application, the user will be located at the moment of its use, therefore notifications of information of the place in which it is located will be able to arrive to him. These notifications are oriented to cover their needs such as parking spaces for the disabled, restaurants or businesses adapted for them…

4-Contribute. This option has a plus and is to help each other. If you wish, you can contribute your bit by sharing information about a place you have been to, indicating details of the establishment, photo, place suitable or not for the disabled and a brief personal comment. In this way you help other people in the same situation.

👩🏻‍🔧Design system

This is like disassembling a Lego by pieces, or being very tidy and placing all the pieces that compose it before assembling the prototype, in either case this would be the sample of everything that will be inside our app/web to make it work.

Prototype Presentation

Dear and future user, we are about to unveil the final result of our project, we are almost at the end of the road, we have enjoyed together going through each stage of this exciting adventure.
-Are you ready to see your new prototype?
-Yes!
-Then let’s go!

Google launches its new app for the disabled GOOGLE MAPS ACCESS. This new version of the classic Google Maps, has of course a specific map search engine for people who move in a wheelchair. Google wanted this year to contribute to this great initiative by designing an app and web/app for our users. Let’s know a little more about how it works.

I see that you have already downloaded the Google maps Access app, what do you think? Look at the amount of things you can do apart from moving to any place, as in the classic Google maps you can save all the information that interests you and sort it by categories and if you are a person who likes to have their things in order there is no better way than this, but there is still more, with Google maps Access you can receive notifications of where to park or eat, What is still not enough for you and you want to somehow leave your mark by Google, with the option to contribute you put it very easy, indicates the data of the place you’ve been, location and photo and includes a small comment on what you may find relevant, Google will take care of publishing it. In this way you will help people like you who are in a similar situation to yours. And with Google maps Access you set the path.

Well Tony, you have arrived at your destination and without any problem, now the power is yours with this new application, it has been a real pleasure to help you. Google maps Access wishes you a happy day.

🚶🏻🧑🏻‍🦽 FUTURES AND CONCLUSIONS

Futures

My idea has always been to improve what already exists in the market, I think Google maps is one of the most used route finder par excellence and therefore I focused on taking advantage of everything that already included but focusing it from the point of view of a person in a wheelchair, the fact of having people like my father who have helped me a lot through their experience I have been able to at least bring forward some of the features that I have not found in any other application during my research. As futures everything absolutely everything can be improved even if Google makes an update then apply it also to this version. I would honestly bring something to the market like this. Yes there is one thing I have missed, but the pointer indicator with the handicapped logo I would put it on all premises that comply with the regulations. I think just like parking spaces, everything should be marked.

Conclusions

What can I tell you more here, I have really enjoyed doing a project like this, I feel that I have contributed my bit as User Experience, I have searched and analyzed every situation, the project could be infinitely larger and you can do wonders, but what I take as a memory has been the teamwork with my father, I could not have a better reference than him. I hope you like it almost, almost as much as I do.

See you here in another adventure, greetings.👋🏻

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UX/UI Designer

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