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The Local Guide using Maps to promote inclusive places

illustration of smartphone with a map on the interface, a camera, polaroid photos, and a person holding a phone and suitcase

Editor’s note: Penny Christie is an artist based out of Sydney, Australia. She’s part of the Local Guides program on Google Maps, made up of millions around the world who share their local experiences to help others make the best decisions on where to go.

I’ve always loved exploring new places. I’ve visited 36 countries so far, and I’m excited to continue visiting many more in my lifetime. As a Local Guide, I contribute reviews, photos and updated information on Google Maps on a regular basis — and I hope my reviews and photos can help people feel more comfortable going to new places. Personally, I get quite anxious whenever I go anywhere new — even if that place is in my local neighborhood. And Google Maps reviews and photos have always been hugely useful in navigating the world around me.

A woman in a red t-shirt holding a colourful windmill pointing at a plaque of a rainbow, with a sign underneath that says “Coogee Rainbow Walkway. Diversity, Inclusion, Love”

Penny is passionate about inclusivity, which she notes in her contributions as a Local Guide.

I believe that everyone has the right to navigate the world freely and safely, which is what I focus on most with my Google Maps reviews. I try to add information that can help others figure out if a place is LGBTQI+ or accessibility friendly — or ideally, both.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the years looking for accessibility-friendly features everywhere I go, whether it’s a restaurant, a store or a park. It’s second nature for me to look for ramps and wheelchair lifts, signs with braille or information on hearing loop sound systems for people with hearing aids. I will take a quick photo of the entrance, take a mental note of parking in the area and look for an accessible entrance. When I’m inside, I take photos and videos of the general layout of the place. Videos are especially important for people who may have a sensitivity to loud environments. I also look for restrooms and toilets and whether they have baby changing facilities. I add this kind of information in my reviews and add photos or videos so people can see how accessible a place is before they arrive.

A woman sitting on a bicycle in front of a sign that says “Local Guides Connect Live 2019”

Penny at Local Guides Connect Live 2019.

I’ve been carrying a camera around with me since I was a child. Photography was my first passion, and it makes me happy that my photos and videos have millions of views. Being a Local Guide has allowed me to use my photos for good. Seeing the views on my photos go up every day shows me that my efforts are doing something positive in the world. In fact, my most viewed photo currently has over 18 million views and all of my photos combined have over 350 million views to date.

I feel like a secret superhero, helping people make decisions and less afraid to step out into the world and explore new places.
Exterior of a busy mall with lots of people walking, an escalator, stores, and lights.

Penny’s most-viewed photo is of Myer Sydney City in Australia

My tip to anyone getting started on Maps is to review everything from shops to restaurants, cafes, parks, beaches, bars, galleries, hardware stores — literally everything. There is so much to review just in your own neighborhood. You don’t need to travel very far to do lots of reviews. I am really proud of being a Local Guide because I feel like a secret superhero, helping people make decisions and less afraid to step out into the world and explore new places.

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