For people with disabilities, finding accessible restaurants and stores can be frustrating. Review sites like Yelp will tell you about menus and customer service, but not if they have a wheelchair ramp. Very often, there is no way to know if a business is accessible until you go check it out yourself. However, there are several websites that are trying to change this by giving people with disabilities a place to rate and review the accessibility of local restaurants, hotels, and other businesses, and find accessible spots reviewed by others.
A team of Fifth Freedom staff members took a look at each site and compared their features. While each website would be useful to the disability community with some more reviews, we found one that stood out above the others.
AXSmap’s design is simple and clean. The text is large and clear. The search filed on the main page contains two fields “Search For” and “Near”. If you click on the “Search For” field, it opens a drop-down list of categories – restaurants, night life, shopping, beauty and spas, and so on. It doesn’t appear to be in any particular order. It’s not alphabetical, and it doesn’t appear to be in order of most searched. You can click on a category in the list, or type in your own.
When you first open the website, a notice pops up asking you to share your location. If you share your location, it automatically fills in your location in the Near field. If you fill in the Near field but not the Search For field and click search, it shows a list of everything near you.
The search results are pulled from Google Maps, so if a business or service does not appear in Google Maps, it won’t appear here.
If your search has multiple results, they will be shown in list form on the left, and in numbered pins on a large map on the right.
Once you sign up for an account, you can search for a location and review the accessibility of the entryway and bathroom on a five-point scale. You can also mark if the location is quiet, spacious, and well-lit, and if there is accessible parking. There is even a space for extra comments and photos.
ABLERoad is visually busier than AXSmap, which may be confusing to some users.
On the website, the search form on the main page has two fields: “Searching For?” and “Where?” If you click search without entering anything, the website asks you to share your location. If you agree, it shows a list of everything near you.
The search results come from Yelp, so if Yelp does not have a business or service in its database, it won’t appear here. The search results show Yelp reviews on the left, and AbleRoad accessibility reviews on the right, if there are any. There likely won’t be any accessibility reviews, but searches will at least return Yelp reviews, so users will be less likely to feel frustrated when searches come up empty. Like AXSmap, the results are also shown as numbered pins on a Google map.
To leave a review, you can log in with Facebook or make an AbleRoad account. Users can review locations for accessibility issues related to mobility, hearing, sight, and cognitive disabilities. The review process is simple, but far more in depth than AXSMap’s. Each type of accessibility is broken down into twelve specific accessibility issues, for a total of forty-eight specific areas of accessibility, which users can rate from one to five stars.
• Under “mobility”, you can rate categories like parking, entrances, restrooms, and counters.
• Under “hearing”, you can rate categories like captioning on TVs, ASL interpreter, and assisted listening system.
• Under “sight”, the categories include announcements, website accessibility, and service animals.
• Under “cognitive”, categories include oral information, illustrative communication, and easy to read directories.
Under each category, you can rate staff/customer service, so people with disabilities can get an idea of how knowledgeable and accommodating the staff is to people with disabilities.
JJsList has a slightly different focus than AXSMap and ABLERoad. Rather than focusing on physical accessibility, it focuses on how disability aware the business staff is, and how well they serve customers with disabilities.
The search form is much simpler than the other two sites, just one field marked “business search”. You can also browse their directory directly. The search results are pulled only from JJsList’s own database of user reviews, not any outside source. The name and address of each business is entered in by the person writing the review, which may make the contact information less reliable than the other two sites.
Again, you have to have an account to write a review. Each review requires you to enter the business name, address, and city. You can rate your experience with the business on a scale of “terrible” to “great”. You are asked “Do you think this business provides welcoming, flexible & respectful customer service or work to people with disabilities?”, and can answer yes or no, and mark if they are physically accessible, welcoming, talked directly to the person with the disability, has employees with disabilities, has accessible parking, and so on. Finally, there is a space to write comments.
JJsList also has a blog with articles about various disability issues like employment, accessible technology, sports, and so on. They also offer disability awareness training for businesses, and a “Disability-Aware Business Seal of Approval” for businesses that take trainings with them.
All three websites share a common issue: in most cities, there will be few, if any, reviews. AXSMap has reviews in large cities like New York and San Francisco, but at the time of this writing, we were unable to locate any in Indiana. ABLERoad has been around longer than AXSMap, so it appears to have more reviews. There were a handful of accessibility reviews in Indianapolis, but we did not see any for Fort Wayne or South Bend. JJsList appears to have the most reviews out of the three. JJsList is based out of Chicago, and they appear to have the most reviews in and around the Chicago region. We found four results for businesses in Indiana.
However, a lack of reviews does not mean there is any issue with the websites, only that they need more disability advocates to come review their favorite spots.
Both AXSMap and ABLERoad offer mobile apps, which is an advantage over JJsList. JJsList also offers the least amount of detail in its review systems, with a single five-point scale of “terrible” to “great”, and a few optional check boxes of accessibility features.
ABLERoad’s review system offers the most detailed information, but leaving a very detailed review would require more time and effort than AXSMap’s system. Some users may feel that ABLERoad reviews are too much work.
Overall, we would recommend AXSMap over ABLERoad and JJsList. AXSMap has the clearest review process and guidelines, and even provides videos on how to write accessibility reviews for their site. Their system does not go into as much detail as ABLERoad’s, but it strikes a good balance between detailed and user friendly.