Roehampton Student took on the world's biggest tech company - and won!
- Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Belinda Bradley, Disability Officer at the Roehampton Students' Union, mounted a successful campaign for Google Maps to show wheelchair-accessible routes.
Last year, Belinda Bradley, a second year undergraduate student and recently-elected RSU Disability Officer, wanted to take a trip in London with her mum, a wheelchair user, but found that all the routes provided by Google Maps demanded stairs, bumpy paths, small hills, foot bridges and crossings without slopes. Additionally, many routes recommended had no room on the pavement for the chair, meaning that wheelchair users were excluded from them.
Google were initially unresponsive to Belinda's requests that they change their policy. So, in August 2017, she set up a petition on Change.org to ask Google to create wheelchair accessible routes on Google Maps.
Within days the campaign started to take off and major news companies and video broadcasters started to notice. After a fortnight, her petition had over 100,000 signatures and had been featured in an article in the New Statesman, as well as in a viral video by artist Oskar T Brand. She had interviews with The Atlantic and Metro, and interest from The One Show and Good Morning Britain. Soon #createwheelchairfriendlyroutes began trending on Twitter.
Shortly afterwards, Google contacted Belinda to ask her if she would collaborate with them and invited her to talk at one of their Local Guides events. As a result of Belinda's campaign, Google went on to set up a facility to allow their 2 billion users to act as Local Guides by submitting detailed reviews and information about how accessible routes are. Then, in March 2018, when Belinda's petition had reached 300,000 signatures and had more than 8 million views, Google finally announced that they had added wheelchair accessible routes to Google Maps in most cities worldwide.
Belinda says, ‘The whole journey of the petition was about getting representation for millions of people. The result has been fantastic, but even more importantly, we've now built this massive platform for change. I hope to use it to continue speaking up for all people with alternative needs and addressing the challenges they may face. It takes a lot of determination but it really proves how much you can achieve when you work for it. You've just got to put yourself out there’.
Belinda's #StayLoud campaign now features in a Change.org video documenting her achievement.
Roehampton welcomes students with disabilities and offers flexible support services tailored to your needs. Our students' union campaigns and runs events for all students, ensuring everyone is welcome and included in our community.