As Canadians go about their day, few consider how much daily, seemingly simple activities could pose a challenge for those with mobility issues.
“I can tell you from my own experience as someone using a wheelchair to get around that it’s very frustrating when you’re trying to go places and you don’t have access to information about what’s actually going to be accessible for you,” says Maayan Ziv, Founder and CEO of AccessNow. “There are countless places where I show up and there’s a step at the entrance or no accessible washroom or whatever it is. Obviously, it makes things really difficult for someone with a disability just trying to live their life.”
Furthermore, says Ziv, the COVID-19 pandemic has made things even more challenging for people with mobility issues. “For people who are immunocompromised, COVID-19 has brought with it a new level of vulnerability and increased levels of anxiety, sacrifice, and isolation. For people with disabilities like myself, this time has forced us to redesign our lives, such as limiting the number of people providing care in home, having others help with grocery runs, moving back home to receive support from family members when possible, and even delaying or canceling necessary medical appointments or procedures to reduce risk of virus exposure.”
An app for accessible spaces
It was the frustration trying to access public spaces that many Canadians take for granted that led Ziv to create AccessNow. AccessNow is an app that uses the power of crowdsourcing to collect and share accessibility information on places like restaurants, hotels, and stores. “Disabled people are trying to navigate a world that isn’t really built with them in mind,” explains Ziv. “That’s where AccessNow comes in. It’s a mobile app and web platform that allows people to search for places based on their level of accessibility. With the app, they can determine if the places they want to go to have accessible parking and washrooms, use braille, are service-animal friendly, and more. There’s a really wide variety of information that we’re collecting and sharing about the accessibility of public spaces.” Currently, AccessNow features over 26,000 pins in 34 cities around the globe.
Whether or not you have a disability, technology is one of the greatest tools we have to connect with others and that can help us go beyond our normal human capacities.
It’s no surprise that Ziv believes that technology is a major force for empowerment for mobility challenged people. “Whether or not you have a disability, technology is one of the greatest tools we have to connect with others and that can help us go beyond our normal human capacities. Specifically, for people with disabilities, technology can help them work, communicate, and have access to so many opportunities they might not have otherwise. We can use technology to create awareness about accessibility and to drive change.”
How companies can help
Ziv also highlights the important role businesses throughout Canada can play by partnering with organizations like AccessNow to better cater to the disabled community. “Bell Canada was the first partner to jump on board to help share accessibility information with AccessNow about all of its stores and kiosks across the country,” says Ziv. “By coming onboard, the corporation signaled to communities and other businesses that accessibility is vital and is worth investing in.”