Alibaba‘s digital map service Amap is adding wheelchair navigation feature to make travel more convenient for individuals with disabilities with the latest addition of public restroom information in the city of Hangzhou. Amap’s accessible navigation service has now covered Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and other major cities in China. This service can also be utilized by parents traveling with infants or elderly travellers.
To show care for the disabled, Amap has successively introduced information about accessible restrooms and accessible elevators since 2017. In addition, 15 apps under Alibaba Group have completed information transformation to better serve the digitally disadvantaged groups such as the disabled and the elderly.
The scarcity of accessible restrooms and inconvenience of finding them in China are major deterrents for disabled individuals to venture out. A wheelchair user recounted her ordeal, “Over ten years ago, I faced immense difficulty in locating an accessible restroom during my travels. It’s hard to express the embarrassment and sadness that situation caused me. Consequently, every time I step out, I meticulously plan how much water intake is feasible within an hour. Unfortunately, this isn’t just my story; thousands of disabled people encounter similar challenges. Accessible restrooms are crucial for our well-being.” Bailing Guo, a wheelchair engineer at Alibaba Group, whom also suffers from infantile paralysis, has faced similar challenges.
Zheng Zhong, who oversees the daily operations of the Hangzhou Accessible Environment Construction Office, stated that since June 2020, Hangzhou has been actively promoting the installation of accessible equipment throughout the city. As of now, among over 1,800 public restrooms in Hangzhou, over 80% are easily accessible to all individuals. These accessible public restrooms can be conveniently located on Amap.
Bailing Guo hoped that accessible restrooms should not be used as smoking rooms or occupied inappropriately and emphasized that some disabled individuals are unable to control their bodily functions when they cannot access an appropriate restroom, which can result in negative effects on their health.
Meanwhile, Alibaba Group helped thousands of people who have disabilities to find undifferentiated employment and live barrier-free in the past year, according to the annual report on helping those with special needs, jointly released by Alibaba and its philanthropy foundation.