A11Y+ Google Maps

This redesign enhances navigation and empower travelers with mobility challenges by incoporating three new features for easier curation of accessibility information.




How might we help people
with mobility challenges plan a trip smoothly and confidently?


I led research and collaborated with 3 designers to redesign Google Maps' accessibility mode.




Interview, Contextual Inquiry, Survey, Think-aloud, Affinity Diagramming, Empathy Map, Journey Map, Storyboards, Crazy 8

My Role

UX Research Lead


Sep - Dec 2022
3 months


1 UX Researcher (me)
3 Designers



Trust Issue With Using Digital Tools

To gain an understanding of the current situation surrounding accessibility in travel, I conducted some quick desktop research. One of the biggest takeaways from my research is that individuals with accessibility needs often rely heavily on their family or friends for assistance, as they have a hard time trusting the available tools and require in-person help.

Challenges Faced by Travellers with Accessibility Needs

We conducted a "reversing assumption" activity to help us break down any preconceived notions we had and to consider sub-directions that we may not have previously thought about. Through this exercise, we realized that our assumptions were based on a very broad problem space, as there are numerous accessibility needs to consider. After some research, we decided to narrow our focus and concentrate on travellers with mobility challenges.
In-Depth Exploration of Travel Challenges Through Real Stories

After realizing that desktop research alone would not provide sufficient insights, our team recognized the importance of speaking with individuals who have mobility challenges to understand their travel experiences.

Given our lack of expertise in the area of accessibility travel, we decided to use directed storytelling as our approach. This allowed participants to share their experiences in their own words and enabled us to capture a more comprehensive understanding of their challenges. Our team was able to ask questions and follow up on interesting insights as they emerged during the storytelling process. To guide our discussions, we focused on three topics: obtaining travel information, making travel decisions, and navigating between locations.

Directed Storytelling
5 mobility challenged individuals
1. Obtain travel information
2. Make travel decision
3. Navigate between locations  

I organized my interpretation notes into groups of affinity notes to identify common themes that emerged from the participants' discussions about their travel habits, the challenges they face when traveling, and their expectations for an enjoyable trip.

We believe that among the various challenges that mobility challenged travellers face, the difficulty in gathering accessibility information for their trips is the most significant. We see this as an opportunity to add substantial value to the interface design we're working on.

This decision also allowed us to fine-tune our
"how-might-we" problem statement as follow -

Let's Find Out If This Challenge Is A Real Challenge

After listening to the graphic details of mobility-challenged users' travel experiences, we were curious to know whether others face similar challenges. To confirm whether these issues were widespread and not just coincidental, we conducted a survey to gather more data. The survey aimed to gather insights into people's challenges and expectations for managing their trips, particularly with regard to gathering accessibility information.

35 mobility challenged individuals
1. Background screening
2. Commute experience
3. Accessibility information curation
4. Travel expectation
5. Technology familiarity
Building User-Empathy Within Teams Through Visualization

We created an empathy map based on the data we collected from the directed storytelling sessions and surveys. This map helped us to visualize our users and ensure that the team keeps their needs in mind while designing.

Speed-dating With Storyboards

As a group, we each swiftly created three storyboards that were categorized based on their level of safety of implementation: safe, mid, and "out there."

To evaluate the storyboards, we then engaged in the "rose, bud, thorn" activity, where we reflected on the positive aspects (rose), the potential areas for improvement (bud), and the challenges (thorn) for each storyboard. This helped us identify opportunities for enhancing the design during the following wireframing session.

Final Design

01 Accessibility Filters

We added a wheelchair icon in the filter area to allow people filter places based on the availability of accessibility facilities like wheelchair ramps, accessible restrooms, accessible parking, and indoor seating for wheelchairs.

The wheelchair icon will also be visible in the location's section, providing users with an immediate indication of the accessibility of the place.

02 Accessibility Ratings & Reviews

In addition to general reviews about a place, our design now allows users to view ratings and reviews that are specifically related to accessibility. We have included the most commonly used accessibility facilities, making it easy for users to find information in a shorter amount of time.

With this design, reviews about accessibility facilities are now easily searchable, shortening the amount of time it takes to find them.

03 Prioritized Street-view Photos

We made street-view and photos of facilities a top priority in our design, as these are the most crucial pieces of information that mobility-challenged travelers look for when searching for a place.

To help users filter different accessibility facilities and see pictures of them, we added new filtering bubbles that display this information in an easy-to-use format.


Parallel Prototyping
Using parallel prototyping for the first time taught me that it is a powerful approach to design critique and can elicit honest opinions to improve designs.

Moving Foward

Conduct Usability Testing
I would love to conduct some usability testing to determine if the new feature is usable and adds positive value to the navigation experience of travellers with mobility challenges.