Accessible Google Maps

Empowering mobility-challenged travellers to plan trips as freely as everyone else



As part of my user research class, I was challenged to improve travel planning. My team designed four new features for Google Maps Mobile, focused on empowering mobility-challenged travelers to plan trips as freely and efficiently as everyone else.

I pitched my project to the UX Head @ Google Geo and discovered a beautiful coincidence:one design was globally launched by Google Maps in May 2023 ↗.




Mobility-challenged travelers face difficulty planning trips due to limited accessibility information.


We designed four features in Google Maps: location's card, amenities filters, amenities review, and prioritized street view photo.




Lead Product Designer; I led research, user flow design, ideation, prototyping, and user testing


4 months (Sep - Dec 2022)


4 Product Designers (including me)


After seven months on the project, I had a one-on-one chat with Google Geo's UX lead. He confirmed that I had identified Google's most impactful opportunities

End Results


Location card

Better represent people who have accessibility needs

I changed the old wheelchair icon for a more inclusive version – the wheelchair riding icon. It's not just about an icon; it's about addressing disability in public spaces, offering better info, and using an icon that better represents agency for wheelchair users.

This change was adopted worldwide by Google Maps in May 2023 ↗.

Amenities filters

Find specific amenities

We iterated on many designs to represent the availability of different amenities. In the end, we settled on the filter bar, which is most familiar to most users, making it easier to find places based on specific needs such as ramps, restrooms, parking, and seating.

Amenities reviews

Find accessibility reviews from the community

This feature allows travelers to view ratings and reviews specifically focused on accessibility amenities. It's separate from the general restaurant reviews, increasing findability and enabling travelers to access the information faster without scrolling through the entire review thread.

Prioritized street view

Visualize accessibility travel

Street-view and amenities photos are important for mobility-challenged travelers to visualize places and set expectations for their trips. We've given priority to these photos to ensure they're accessible.

Identifying Existing Challenges


Most trip planning tools lack key accessibility info, leaving users frustrated.

This project began with a broad topic: travel planning. We found a big unmet need in existing tools during desk research. These tools often miss key accessibility info, causing frustration for travelers.

With mobility challenges being an issue that can impact anyone, we discovered a unique opportunity to create a tool that benefits all. This shifted our focus to helping mobility-challenged travelers to curate information.

I saw lots of online comments talking about how tough it was to find accessible spots.

How might we empower people with mobility challenges to
curate accessibility information smoothly and confidently?

Understanding Context & User Needs


Frustration comes from not knowing what to expect.

We conducted contextual inquiries to understand the precise moments of challenge they face while using these tools and how it impacts their trip. Among the participants (N=7), none felt confident in curating trip information. The main reason is the lack of information, leaving them unsure about what to expect.

Contextual inquiry snapshot (left); Participant walkthrough of trip planning tool (right).

Setting Design Goals


Setting trip expectations requires knowing these three types of information.

I led the team in analyzing all the qualitative data and found these insights about the types of information they're looking for during trip planning and why it is important.


Specific amenities information

Knowing whether a place is accessible is not enough. Mobility-challenged travelers want to know what kind of amenities a place has, to make sure they are all set for the trip.


Reviews from the communities

Store-provided accessibility information is considered less trustworthy and outdated. People trust more in past visitors who have experienced using those amenities.


Amenities photos & Street views

Text alone can't fully describe amenities because people are usually bad at describing them. Amenity photos and street photos help mobility-challenged travelers see the details and visualize better.



Crafting solutions and quickly testing them with mid-fidelity wireframes.

I led the team in ideating potential solutions and user flows. We used sketches to visualize ideas, and mid-fidelity wireframes to build the basic flow and quickly test with users.

Some snapshots from our storyboards (top) and one of the mid-fidelity prototypes (below).

Design Direction: Redesign Google Maps


Empowerment comes from making the existing information easier to find.

From our contextual inquiry, we learned that people feel more empowered when we integrate features within an app they use daily. Through a quick survey (N=45), we found that the majority of users (>85%) use Google Maps Mobile, but still face difficulties accessing key information. This led us to identify an interesting opportunity to redesign Google Maps. I proceeded to analyze user flow and potential issues within the Search results (SERP) stage.

Current user flow for using Google Maps to search for accessibility information.

Testing & Iterations


Iterate rapidly based on
user testing.

After identifying the challenges at each stage, we developed a set of prototypes to address them. During this phase, we conducted moderated usability testing (N=5) to test the clarity, efficiency, and satisfaction of the new features we made. We saw data saturation after talking to five participants and rapidly iterated on our design. Here are some examples.


Our initial idea was to introduce an additional toggle on the map, but users became confused about how to locate specific amenities. We also recognized that this design solution would require more engineering efforts.


To address this, I placed the accessibility toggle on the filter bar. Clicking the wheelchair icon allows users to search for specific amenities, expanding the options for selections. This improves clarity and flexibility.


Users can easily understand this design, but they all mentioned that they still don't know which amenities the 4.5 rating is targeting. They also expressed a stronger interest in knowing if specific amenities are available.


To address this, we introduced a clear distinction from the original star system. This allows users to easily determine whether they have a particular amenity and understand its level of accessibility.


When browsing the general location card, users want to get a quick idea of whether a place is accessible. Having two rating scores is confusing. Some participants also mentioned that the wheelchair icon is not inclusive.


To tackle this, I followed the way Google Maps currently displays store information. I invested quite a bit of time in understanding the subtle difference between the wheelchair riding icon and the old one, and why it's important for people with disabilities. To offer the most empowerment, which is our design goal, we switched to the riding icon.

The fascinating backstory of this icon comes from the Accessible Icon Project ↗.

Creating Visual Consistency


Follow a standard design system to build a seamless experience.

To stay aligned with the experience on Google Maps, I rigorously follow Google's open-source M3 Design system. This approach has also helped me in ensuring that our designs enable people with diverse abilities to navigate, understand, and interact with our UI.

Following the existing design system helps me design more quickly and ensures UI accessibility.

Predicting Impact


Aligned with Google's business & social mission.

Even though this is just a personal project, I believe that what I propose could be impactful and empowering. After a few months of working on this project, I pitched my design to the head of Google Geo (thanks Dave!) . He remarked that I had very sharp insights, especially since they had just launched the location card in the summer of 2023 – a beautiful coincidence.


Set an accessibilty standard

Changing an icon might seem small, but even the tiniest design choice in Google Maps has an impact on millions of users every day. Choose what best embodies the fulfillment of Google's mission - to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.


Propose valuable solutions to manage information

Google Maps has a lot of crowdsourced info that can really help people with different accessibility needs. I learned how to make the most of that power to come up with some cool design solutions.

Road Ahead


Consider cross-functional goals and implement features in phased rollouts.

Changing the design in a complex software takes time. If I were the designer on the Google Geo team, I'd suggest a feature rollout in phases, determined by feature's impact level (measured by the number of users reached).

After discussing with the Head of Google Geo UX, I verified that all my designs were feasible and the necessary data was available. However, implementation depends on the roadmap. Here are a couple of questions I'd pose to my team if we were to emphasize these directions and delve deeper into exploration :)

Here are some questions I'd ask my team, and of course, I had some ideas for them!