Both Google *and* Bing fail to support accessibility, dammit!

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2011/03/29 07:01 -04:00, original URI:

This blog is about two issues -- one that affects me much more personally than the other.

Disclaimer: I work for Microsoft, the company behind Bing. And I did once interview with Google (the company that finally paid my travel expenses for the interview!).

I'll start with the one than affects me more, since I have been assured by someone i trust that [at least here in the Blog] it is all about me....

Previously, in Once upon a time, you could earn my loyalty, for up to 24 hours at a time, I pointed out I had mostly moved to Bing finally. And that the one thing I still used Google for was its integration with bus routes.

Not too long after that, Bing picked up the bus route schedule stuff too, and now Google's one place for we was the built-in app on the Pam Pre that worked better than Bing via the web on that ultra-small form factor (Google on the web would have sucked too, but they did have the app).

So anyway, all was well and good.


In actuality, all three Bus Schedule Integration solutions (Bing Maps via the web, Google via the web, and Google via the Palm Pre app) sucked in one specific way, a way that the King County Metro Trip Planner didn't suck at all.

With these various integrated solutions, there is no option to request an accessible trip.

 This hurts me in two specific ways:

Yet either one includes lots of other options, so omitting these other choices (especially the accessible trip option but all three are useful if one has a mobility handicap!) really, really sucks.

Summary: Both Google and Bing suck in this regard. And they SUCK HUGE.

 Okay, now there is the other problem.

And that problem is that if you ignore features 4,5, and 6 of the King County Metro Trip Planner, both Google and Bing are only as good as the King County Metro Trip Planner.

And no better.

Yet there is the service provided by sites like One Bus Away, which give live tracking info of where the buses actually are (Raymond mentioned it a while back, here).

These Bing/Google apps do nothing other than tell you where they ought to be if they follow the schedule. But in a city that spends a lot of its time running 1-20 minutes late (and occasionally 10 minutes early, as I have learned the hard way!), the data of what is rather than one might be in theory is pretty much indispensable.

Now One Bus Away is I believe still largely based on, and thus like with the first problem they could work to integrate the data here if they so chose -- either with the source or with One Bus Away.

King County Metro has a Tracker, too. So there are a lot of options.

Integration can be a complicated problem, but at a minimum a special addition of the live data that could let you know if the suggested route is doomed would be nice (taking it a step further to suggest timely alternatives would be more difficult given limits on what i available, but the time to integrate just the data here would be really nice.

There is at least a mitigation here: I can run both one of the integrated apps/sites and One Bus Away (which even has a Bus Trackerapp on the Palm Pre!), or in my case all three since I am forced to also use the King County Metro Trip Planner site. But despite the Palm Pre's WebOS being able to multitask, I find the Google app to be pretty flaky about memory usage, which can make running both of them let alone all three of them hard.

Summary: Yet again, both Bing and Google suck in their bus integration, in this case Google a bit more than Bing.

So why do both Google and Bing let me down here. I'm not sure, but both of them have a very high suckage factor, especially on their refusal to support the built-in information that their source provides on accessibility.

Maybe they both could do a little something here. If they manage to do so and thereby stop sucking, I'll mention it.

And for now I'll use three sites, since no one site has proven able to do the job 

GregM on 29 Mar 2011 7:39 AM:

I like your choice of phone.  Judging by the memory usage comment, I assume you're using an original Pre on Sprint.  I can count on one hand the number of times I've run into the too many cards error on my Pre Plus, so if/when you upgrade to a 2 or 3, that issue should disappear.

Michael S. Kaplan on 29 Mar 2011 7:44 AM:

Indeed, it is the original Palm Pre. Though really it is only with the Google maps app involved that I hit it (and the browser won't hit the website -- it forces the app if you go to the site)....

Richard on 29 Mar 2011 11:13 AM:

Of course, the *real* suckage is that there are any non-accessible stops in the first place! :D

BlindUser on 29 Mar 2011 2:28 PM:

I am a blind user and use a screen reader and unlike Google, Bing is inaccessible in its Maps, because they use a Silverlight application whose implementation is inaccessible to the screen reader, its Video Search is harder than Google's because it uses no HTML headings and ARIA landmarks, its Entertainment Search is overloaded and makes my screen reader run so slow that I can't use it at all plus the page dynamically changes under you, its Web Search is fine but has more things at the top than Google that I have to skip over and its Feedback form is inconsistent and both with its History pages after you give feedback or enable/disable history it does not return you to your previous page but you are forced to press back on your browser 3-4 times. is also very inaccessible as it is overloaded, changes all the time, has no logical hierarchy of information that I can easily learn and remember, is full of seemingly spam text maskarating as news or shopping and in general its design interface is not intuitive from the accessibility standpoint. Bing/Live Search and MSN have been like this for some years. Why isn't anybody listening and fixing things?

Michael S. Kaplan on 29 Mar 2011 6:33 PM:

Silverlight itself has support for screen readers (ref here, for example) but it looks like the maps aren't using it in Bing....

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