About MBTAccess

The MBTAccess app locates wheelchair-accessible public transit stops near the user. It integrates Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) from Google Maps and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA).

An API is a way for an application to provide data to other applications in a standardized format. The MBTA introduced a new MBTA V3 API in November 2017. One of the under-utilized parts of their API is the wheelchair accessibility of the stops.

Google Maps started providing wheelchair accessibility info for MBTA stops in March 2018, but the user experience is not ideal. In the Google Maps native app, a user has to make at least three taps to see accessibility info on a single stop:

  1. Tap on the transit tab.
  2. Tap "More stations" to find a specific station.
  3. Tap on a specific station
  4. See a tiny wheelchair icon.

Searching isn't easy either.

  • Searching "wheelchair stop" returns a far-away parking lot as the top hit.
  • Searching "wheelchair t stop" returns some stops, but also wheelchair vendors, and doesn't display any accessibility icons.
  • Searching "wheelchair MBTA stop" shows some stops, but the search content is strangely different from the other screens.
Steps for finding wheelchair-accessible MBTA stops with Google Maps

Other apps aren't much better. The Citymapper native app doesn't provide any wheelchair accessibility info at all.

MBTAccess provides an experience tailored to users in wheelchairs. Simply providing the location to the web browser returns stops within half a mile. Clicking a map marker opens a window with the stop name and a link to directions in Google Maps.

There's also a page with information on universities in the Massachusetts Bay area.

We don't store or sell information on the app's users. When the user clicks the Google Maps link, our app only sends the latitude/longitude coordinates to Google.

We hope this app is helpful. We also realize that separate is not equal, as accessibility experts explain. We hope that transportation apps like Google Maps will build these features into their apps.

About the developers

We're a group of web developers in the Boston-Cambridge area. We met through a Grow with Google scholarship program. We open-source our code on GitHub.

Contact us: gwgnewengland {at} gmail.com

MBTAccess team meetup photo from April 7, 2018 at MIT