Online Accessibility Maps Should be Interactive

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Looking at the websites of public spaces – such as universities, parks, or museums – you’ll often find a section of their site that offers an accessibility map, one that gives the locations of entrances and pathways that are built to adequately meet the needs of individuals in wheelchairs, or with other physical disabilities.

Most of these maps are often presented in a document or PDF format, with very little interactive element. Alternatively, these places may provide printed handouts of these maps, often requiring people to tote papers around with them.

In many ways, the current distribution and effort placed into these accessibility maps is often minimal at best. These public spaces could easily provide a better format of this data through online GIS, rather than placing everything into the constraints of a physical document. Both ArcGIS Online and Google Maps provide tools that allow basic customization of lines and points, allowing organizations to recreate these maps without much trouble. But there are also more detailed options that allow a complete reworking of current accessibility map standards, making them far more interactive and helpful.

Why provide this information in an online format? One of the primary issues that comes with creating PDFs, or pasting images onto a website, is the inconsistency of the map’s visuals across mobile devices. Those who use their phone or tablet may find themselves struggling to accommodate these larger files onto their screens in a way that’s visible. Similarly, providing paper maps can be another inconvenience. By digitizing accessibility maps into online applications, organizations can save the cost of printing and distributing.

Google Maps recently introduced an option to plan routes based on wheelchair accessibility when traveling via public transportation.

For those starting out with online mapping, there are several resources provided online, particularly in YouTube videos.

Introduction to ArcGIS Online:

Introduction to Google Maps:

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