My Google Map Blog

Tag: Diversity and Inclusion

How I’m making Maps better for wheelchair users like me

by Sasha Blair-Goldensohn on Dec.04, 2019, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

If you visit a city and don’t see anyone using a wheelchair, it doesn’t mean they’re not there. It means the city hasn’t been built in such a way as to let them be part of things. I know this firsthand: I’m one of 65 million people around the world who uses a wheelchair, and I see every day how a city’s infrastructure can prevent people like me from being active, visible members of society.

On July 29, 2009, I was taking my usual morning walk through New York’s Central Park when a dead tree branch snapped and fell on my head. The spinal damage partly paralyzed my lower body. I spent the next seven months in the hospital, where I got the first glimpse of what my life would be like from then on. I was going to use a wheelchair for the rest of my life—and my experience as a born and bred New Yorker was about to change forever.  

That’s because much of the city isn’t accessible for people like me. Fewer than one in four subway stations in New York City have wheelchair access. And plenty of places, from restaurants to schools, lack a way for me to even get inside. It was humbling to realize these  barriers had been there throughout my growing up in New York; I simply hadn’t noticed.

Those realizations were in my mind when I returned to work in 2011 as an engineer on the Search team, especially because I could no longer take my usual subway route to work. However, the more I shared with colleagues, the more I found people who wanted to help solve real-world access needs. Using “20 percent time”—time spent outside day-to-day job descriptions—my colleagues like Rio Akasaka and Dianna Hu pitched in and we launched wheelchair-friendly transit directions. That initial work has now led to a full-time team dedicated to accessibility on Maps.

I’ve also collaborated with another group of great allies, stretching far beyond Google. For the past several years, I’ve worked with our Local Guides, a community of 120 million people worldwide who contribute information to Google Maps. By answering questions like “Does this place have a wheelchair accessible entrance,” Local Guides help people with mobility impairments decide where to go. Thanks to them, we can now provide crowdsourced accessibility information for more than 50 million places on Google Maps. At our annual event last year and againseveral weeks ago, I met some amazing Guides--like Emeka from NigeriaandIlankovan from Sri Lanka--who have become informal accessibility ambassadors themselves, promoting the inclusion of people with disabilities in their communities around the world.

Today, on International Day of Persons With Disabilities, I hope our work to make Google Maps more inclusive underscores what Angela Glover Blackwell wrote so powerfully about in “The Curb-Cut Effect.” When we build with accessibility in mind, it doesn’t just help people with disabilities. It helps everyone. Curb cuts in sidewalks don’t just help me cross the street—they also help parents pushing strollers, workers with deliveries and tourists with suitcases. As Blackwell puts it, building equity is not a zero-sum game—everyone benefits.

The people in wheelchairs you don’t see in your city? They've been shut out, and may not be able to be a part of society because their environment isn't accessible. And that’s not merely a loss for them. It’s a loss for everyone, including friends, colleagues and loved ones of people with disabilities. I’m grateful to those who stay mindful of the issues faced by people like me to ensure that our solutions truly help the greater community.

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Stonewall Forever: Honoring LGBTQ+ history through a living monument

by William Floyd on Jun.04, 2019, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

Many people have shaped my life—my parents who brought me into the world; Miss Moran, my fifth grade teacher, who pushed me to be a better student; my late mentor Bill McCarthy who helped guide my career early in my professional life. But perhaps the most meaningful people in my life are my husband, whom I have been with for nearly 30 years, and my son, who gives me more joy (and a fair amount of frustration) than I could have ever imagined. For them, I owe thanks in large part to a valiant handful of New Yorkers whom I've never met. Their act of defiance ultimately enabled me to live, love and be who I am.

It was early in the morning on Saturday, June 28, 1969, when the police raided the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street, one of the few places at the time where LGBTQ people could gather openly. New Yorkers fought back. This altercation, known as the Stonewall Riots, led to angry protests that lasted for days and sparked the modern fight for LGBTQ rights around the world.

In 2016, President Obama designated Christopher Park, the small triangle of green that sits in front of the Stonewall Inn, as the first national monument dedicated to telling the story of this community’s struggle. The Stonewall National Monument serves as a reminder of the continuing fight for civil and human rights.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Stonewall. To recognize this pivotal moment in history, the LGBT Community Center of New York City (The Center) spearheaded the creation of Stonewall Forever, an interactive “living monument” to 50 years of Pride. Google provided support in the form of a $1.5 million grant from Google.org, and volunteers from Google Creative Lab helped bring the experience to life.

Stonewall Forever connects diverse voices from the Stonewall era to the millions of voices in today’s LGBTQ community. The monument is made up of countless colorful pieces that contain digitized historical artifacts, oral histories capturing the early days of the movement, interviews with new voices of LGBTQ equality, and photos and messages added by people around the world.

Anyone can visit Stonewall Forever on the web, and through an augmented reality app that allows you to experience the Stonewall National Monument in New York’s Christopher Park. Explore the past, present and future of Pride and then add your own piece to the ever-growing monument. You can dive deeper by watching a short documentary, directed by Ro Haber, featuring an inclusive array of activists, from across generations, each giving their own interpretation of the Stonewall legacy.

Beyond our support of Stonewall Forever, we’re launching Pride Forever, a campaign honoring the past, present, and future of the LGBTQ+ community. This theme is rooted in sharing the past 50 years of global LGBTQ+ history with our users. Today’s interactive Google Doodle celebrates 50 years of Pride by taking us through its evolution over the decades, with animated illustrations by Doodler Nate Swinehart.  

Google Arts & Culture is also preserving even more archives and stories from LGBTQ history, in partnership with The Center,GLBT Historical Society of San Francisco, the National Park Service’s Stonewall Monument, and Cyark. The collection includes never-before-seen photos and videos, 3D models of the Stonewall monuments, and a virtual walking tour of LGBTQ sites in the Village.

Here are a few other ways we’re helping people celebrate Pride.

  • Like past years, we’ll identify major Pride parade routes on Google Maps.
  • Later this month, check out Google Play for apps, movies, books, and audiobooks to help the LGBTQ+ community share stories and also learn more about the history of LGBTQ+ rights.
  • And through Google My Business, business owners can mark their businesses as “LGBTQ-friendly” and as a “Transgender Safe Space” on their Google listing to let customers know they’re always welcome. As of today, more than 190,000 businesses have enabled these attributes on their business listing.

Today, Stonewall lives on in images, histories and monuments—old and new. It also lives on in the LGBTQ community and its supporters. The past paves the way for the future, and Stonewall Forever reminds us that alone we’re strong, but together we’re unstoppable. Pride is forever.

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