Portland International Airport has implemented new technology to help people navigate its terminal.
The smartphone app GoodMaps Explore was specifically designed to assist travelers with disabilities. The free navigation app enables travelers with different needs, including people who are blind or have low vision, or those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Scott Hatley, the executive director of Portland disability resource service Incight, said the application does a great job at offering multiple options for assistance.
“I think what’s unique about the disability community is that every disability is different, and so what’s good for one isn’t always good for the other,” Hatley said. “If you think specifically about this app, I think what’s helpful for this kind of demographic is being able to have different options.”
GoodMaps users at PDX can receive audio and visual directions to locations in the terminal, including restrooms, food options, retail outlets, water fountains, baggage claim, and charging stations throughout the ticket lobby. The app offers directions in English, Spanish and French.
GoodMaps boasts a precise user location, within 3 feet, to help give accurate directions. Portland now has one of the few airports in the world to implement the use of this app.
“One thing about Portland in general is we kind of pride ourselves on being a little bit more progressive and ahead of the curve,” Hatley said. “I think what’s neat about Portland Airport doing that, is they’re taking a risk and trying something that I think can have a huge benefit for the whole population.”
Pete De Vasto is a member of the Port of Portland’s accessibility committee and a traveler with total blindness. He’s hoping other airports follow Portland’s lead and implement similar technology.
“This kind of support will be game-changing for travelers with different needs,” he said.
Hatley said everyone deserves access to the luxury of travel, and while more needs to be done to make travel accessible, GoodMaps is a good step. He also believes this app will help people beyond the disabled community, including older travelers.
“I like seeing how technology can impact people’s lives and bring a little bit more independence for a demographic that might have to rely on other people for support,” Hatley said. “They can kind of navigate in a way that they can do it on their own. That’s always more empowering "
Plans are in the works to expand GoodMaps services to the entirety of the PDX complex over the next several years.