Google Maps’s new features built for visually impaired

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To celebrate World Sight Day and as part of its mission to build technology for everyone, Google is launching new features in Google Maps to help its visually impaired users. They have built the “more detailed voice guidance and new types of verbal announcements” from the ground up and worked with their target users to ensure that it will indeed be useful and helpful. This is the first time they created specific features in the app for people with vision impairments.

Wakana Sugiyama, a Business Analyst living in Tokyo who is also legally blind talked about the features in a special post on the Google blog and she also worked as an early advisor and tester for this project. The features will not only help them navigate around areas that may both be familiar and unfamiliar but it also gives them “more confidence and assurance” to move around even when they’re traveling alone.

Some of the features you can expect from Google Maps includes the app proactively telling you if you’re on the correct route and also the distance until the next turn you need to make. It will also give you a heads-up if you’re nearing a large intersection and tell you to “cross with caution”. You get a spoken notification in case you veer off from your route and will give you a new route.

Even though this was built for people with visual impairments, it can also be useful for the regularly sighted who want to go on a walking trip with less screen interaction. If you need more details from the voice guidance on your Google Maps, then at least you’ll have the option to use it whenever you want. Also, it would be safer to walk around listening to directions than constantly looking at your screen.

To turn on the detailed voice guidance on your Google Maps app, go to the settings and select “Navigation” and you’ll find the option to enable it at the bottom of the list. It’s currently rolling out for English users in the U.S. and for Japanese in Japan. They will be adding languages and countries later on.


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