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Google LLC

"How I’m making Maps better for wheelchair users like me" - Sasha Blair-Goldensohn

Below is an article originally written by Sasha Blair-Goldensohn, Software Engineer at PowerToFly Partner Google, and published on December 3, 2019. Go to Google's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.

If you visit a city and don't see anyone using a wheelchair, it doesn't mean they're not there. It means the city hasn't been built in such a way as to let them be part of things. I know this firsthand: I'm one of 65 million people around the world who uses a wheelchair, and I see every day how a city's infrastructure can prevent people like me from being active, visible members of society.

On July 29, 2009, I was taking my usual morning walk through New York's Central Park when a dead tree branch snapped and fell on my head. The spinal damage partly paralyzed my lower body. I spent the next seven months in the hospital, where I got the first glimpse of what my life would be like from then on. I was going to use a wheelchair for the rest of my life—and my experience as a born and bred New Yorker was about to change forever.

That's because much of the city isn't accessible for people like me. Fewer than one in four subway stations in New York City have wheelchair access. And plenty of places, from restaurants to schools, lack a way for me to even get inside. It was humbling to realize these barriers had been there throughout my growing up in New York; I simply hadn't noticed.

Those realizations were in my mind when I returned to work in 2011 as an engineer on the Search team, especially because I could no longer take my usual subway route to work. However, the more I shared with colleagues, the more I found people who wanted to help solve real-world access needs. Using "20 percent time"—time spent outside day-to-day job descriptions—my colleagues like Rio Akasaka and Dianna Hu pitched in and we launched wheelchair-friendly transit directions. That initial work has now led to a full-time team dedicated to accessibility on Maps.

I've also collaborated with another group of great allies, stretching far beyond Google. For the past several years, I've worked with our Local Guides, a community of 120 million people worldwide who contribute information to Google Maps. By answering questions like "Does this place have a wheelchair accessible entrance," Local Guides help people with mobility impairments decide where to go. Thanks to them, we can now provide crowdsourced accessibility information for more than 50 million places on Google Maps. At our annual event last year and again several weeks ago, I met some amazing Guides--like Emeka from Nigeriaand Ilankovan from Sri Lanka--who have become informal accessibility ambassadors themselves, promoting the inclusion of people with disabilities in their communities around the world.

Today, on International Day of Persons With Disabilities, I hope our work to make Google Maps more inclusive underscores what Angela Glover Blackwell wrote so powerfully about in "The Curb-Cut Effect." When we build with accessibility in mind, it doesn't just help people with disabilities. It helps everyone. Curb cuts in sidewalks don't just help me cross the street—they also help parents pushing strollers, workers with deliveries and tourists with suitcases. As Blackwell puts it, building equity is not a zero-sum game—everyone benefits.

The people in wheelchairs you don't see in your city? They've been shut out, and may not be able to be a part of society because their environment isn't accessible. And that's not merely a loss for them. It's a loss for everyone, including friends, colleagues and loved ones of people with disabilities. I'm grateful to those who stay mindful of the issues faced by people like me to ensure that our solutions truly help the greater community.

What to Write in a Farewell Card to a Leaving Coworker: Quotes and Examples

For the boss you loved, the coworker you hated, and everyone in between

Two things are inevitable when someone leaves your team at work: there will be an abundance of sweet treats (I'm partial to those giant cookie cakes from the mall) and there will be a card passed around for everyone to scrawl the professional version of sweet nothings in. Depending on the "importance" of the person, you may get the bonus activities of farewell gifts and/or an all-team champagne toast.

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Peloton

A Night of Networking with Peloton’s Women Tech Leaders

If you are a New York based tech professional and you'd like to attend this event, please email your name and LinkedIn URL to events@powertofly.com.

Whether you are a software engineer, fitness enthusiast or both, you won't want to miss PowerToFly's evening of product demos and networking with the women tech leaders and allies at Peloton.

Founded in 2012, Peloton brought top talent together in its Silicon Alley headquarters to create a new concept in fitness. In their words, "We loved cycling but had a hard time finding a workout that consistently fit our schedules, and our at-home workouts never felt quite up to par. So, we set out to create a world-class indoor cycling studio experience on your time, and in the comfort of your own home."

This event is your chance to hear directly from the women tech leaders and allies who make their revolutionary products like the Peloton Bike, Peloton Tread and Peloton App possible. We'll be devoting a large portion of the event to taking your questions and I know the Peloton team wants to hear from you!

The unique evening will take place on Wednesday, February 12th from 6pm to 8:30pm at 125 W 25th Street.

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Some Men Get a Pay Bump When They Enter Female-Dominated Jobs — How Can Women Benefit Too?

These Researchers Argue It Could Lead to Traditionally Female Jobs Becoming More Valued

Studies have found that as women take over male-dominated fields, the pay drops. So what happens when men start joining female-dominated fields?

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Diversity & Inclusion

How Inclusion Can Help You Attract and Retain Top Talent

There's a lot more to building an inclusive company than just hiring more people from diverse backgrounds. So, how can you build an inclusive culture that will help you attract and retain a diverse group of employees?

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Diversity & Inclusion

How This Sales Coach Found Success—And A Career Path—at the Intersection of Tech, Construction, & Sales

A few months ago, Lily Zintak found herself at a crossroads.

She'd been working as a Sales Development Representative in construction management software company Procore Technologies' Austin, Texas office for the better part of 18 months. She'd watched the office grow from less than 200 people to more than 400—and even cut the ribbon when they opened a new floor of offices. She'd made 50-plus sales calls a day, honed an approach to prospecting and connecting with clients that worked for her, and found success. It was at this point in her career, where she had to make a tough decision.

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