It’s no exaggeration to say that Google Maps has changed the travel game, making it easier than ever for globetrotters to navigate unfamiliar locales with aplomb. Now, with its latest rollout, it’s bringing that same sense of confidence and accessibility to people with impaired vision. 

portrait of a blind woman with a white cane standing outside, waiting for public transport in summer.
Detailed voice guidance for walking trips is now available on Google Maps for Android and iOS. Image © Halfpoint Images/Getty Images

On 10 October,  just in time for World Sight Day, Google Maps introduced detailed voice guidance for walking trips – the platform’s first feature built by and for people with vision impairments. It’s currently available on Android and iOS, in English in the United States and Japanese in Japan, with more languages and countries in the works. 

With voice guidance, you can opt to receive notifications and verbal announcements as you traverse the city on foot, including warnings when you’re crossing busy intersections, confirmation that you’re on the right track (and a heads-up if you’re not), which direction you’re walking, and how much further you have to go until your next turn.

As an early advisor and tester on the project, business analyst Wakana Sugiyama wrote in a blog post announcing the roll-out, “frequent updates like these not only help a visually impaired person get from A to B, they can also give us more confidence and reassurance when we travel alone... This may not sound extraordinary to those with sight, but for people who are blind or have low vision, this can help us explore new and unfamiliar places.”

Though Google obviously intends the detailed voice guidance to be useful to the hundreds of millions of people around the world who are blind or have moderate-to-severe vision impairments, it also hopes the new feature will come in handy to travellers across the spectrum – those who want to be less glued to their screens, say, or those who need a little extra help with directions. 

To opt in, go to Google Maps settings and select “Navigation.” Under “Walking options,” select "Detailed voice guidance.”

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