Portland International Airport has implemented new technology to help people navigate its terminals.
The GoodMaps Explore smartphone app was designed specifically to assist travelers with disabilities. Free navigation apps can help travelers with different needs, such as those who are blind, partially sighted, or hard of hearing.
Scott Hatley, executive director of Portland Disability Resource Services Insight, says the application is great at providing multiple options for assistance.
“What’s unique about the disability community is that all disabilities are different, so what’s good for one isn’t always good for the other,” Hatley said. “When I think about this app specifically, I think what helps this kind of demographic is being able to have different options.”
PDX GoodMaps users can receive audio and visual directions to locations within the terminal, including restrooms, eateries, retail outlets, fountains, baggage claim, and charging stations throughout the ticket lobby. This app provides directions in English, Spanish and French.
GoodMaps boasts accurate user location within 3 feet to provide accurate directions. Portland currently has one of the few airports in the world to implement the use of this app.
“One thing I can say about Portland in general is that we pride ourselves on being a little progressive and ahead of the curve,” Hatley said. “The great thing about Portland Airport is that they’re taking risks and trying to do something that I think can bring great benefits to the entire population.”
Pete De Vasto is a member of the Portland Port Accessibility Board and a blind traveler. He hopes other airports will implement similar technology.
“This kind of support will be a game changer for travelers with different needs,” he said.
Everyone has a right to access luxury travel, said Hatley, and more needs to be done to make travel accessible, but GoodMaps is a good step. He also believes the app will help people beyond the disability community, such as older travelers.
“I love seeing how technology impacts people’s lives and can bring a little more independence to segments of the population that have to rely on others for support,” said Hatley. . “They can navigate like they can on their own. It’s always more empowering.”
Plans are underway to expand the GoodMaps service across the PDX complex over the next few years.