Alibaba’s Amap tests wheelchair navigation in China
Amap, a provider of mobile digital map, navigation and real-time traffic information under the Alibaba Group, announced on November 25th that it is testing wheelchair navigation functions in Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou. The function will roll out nationwide, with Chengdu and Shenzhen being phase 2 cities to be launched in December.
The wheelchair navigation function will give users with reduced mobility suitable directions, such as chose subway stations entrances with elevator instead of escalator and avoid staircases and steep routes.
There are 85 million people with disabilities in China, including more than 24 million people with physical disabilities, according to statistics from the China Disabled Persons’ Federation. However, many of them rarely go out.
“People rarely see wheelchair users because it’s too inconvenient for them to go out. They are not sure of the routes and environment outside. The costs of trial and error can be high for them, especially when they are reluctant to ask for help,” [says Hu Xionghua, the president of the Association for the Promotion of Barrier-Free Environment in Zhejiang], who remarked the wheelchair navigation function would ease the “going out anxiety” of disabled groups.
Amap has been including disabled-friendly features in their updates since 2017, and has launched functions such as pining barrier-free toilets and barrier-free elevators. In addition to Amap, 15 of Alibaba apps have included accessibility functions to better serve the elderly, people with disabilities and other disadvantaged groups.
Internet and digital accessibility for disadvantaged groups is among one of MIIT(China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology) initiatives in recent years. The Ministry launched notices and guidelines on the issue last year, and 325 websites and apps in China have completed their accessibility update as of April this year.