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Universal Accessibility Through Her Lens

Maayan Ziv: AccessNow

Maayan Ziv

The photo shows a thoughtful, resolute gaze. It looks past the camera and silently asks why you think of her differently. It challenges your beliefs and expectations that are perhaps based on erroneous assumptions that usually accompany the sight of someone who sits in a wheelchair. That resolute gaze belongs to a confident entrepreneur, photographer and disability advocate. She is passionate, driven and committed to helping millions of people around the world who live with disabilities confidently navigate their way around the places they choose to go. She is Maayan Ziv and lives with muscular dystrophy, but this has not prevented her from being a positive role model, sought-after speaker and phenomenal woman.

Through her own lens, Maayan tells a story of advocacy, love for photography, and her bold vision for a truly inclusive and accessible world. She shares how photography provided her with subtle opportunities for advocacy that sparked, among other things, the creation of AccessNow, an app that maps accessible venues around the world.

Maayan Ziv
Maayan Ziv holding her camera
Maayan Ziv

Authentic experiences offered by Kalinago Tours in the Kalinago Territory

Maayan: One of the things I loved a lot about being a photographer was the fact that I was carving out a space for people with disabilities by existing in an industry that didn’t expect me to be there and didn’t really want me to be there (this is often how it felt). A lot of time was spent convincing people that I could do the job or educating them. I loved being able to reach people and change their ideas about disability; I loved creating space and an awareness that other people could enter the photography industry, see me and think it’s possible. That’s where my advocacy really started: as a part of my identity, as opposed to [me] fighting for ramps to be made or asking people to do things when I traveled.

Mélange: What led to the creation of AccessNow?

Maayan: In the first week of my masters in digital media classes at Ryerson, we were supposed to go to a restaurant to celebrate the beginning of the year, and I realized that I didn’t know if the place we were going to was accessible. This problem had presented itself to me all my life; now maybe there was an opportunity to understand the issue not only on a personal level, but also on a policy level. I started building a business which became an axis just by the sheer need to solve my own problem, and then as I worked on it, I realized how much potential it had to help millions around the world.

Mélange: How does the platform work?

Maayan: We have a mobile app and a website and you can use it anywhere in the world. It’s open, so anyone who joins the platform in our community can contribute their own ratings, like if you went somewhere and thought, “Wow. I never realized how great the accessible washroom is here.” If you are somewhere new and don’t have anything showing up on the app, you could search for a place and add your own review about it. That’s how it grows: within their own communities, people contribute their own knowledge and experiences. [The information is] shared all around the world, which helps the entire community.

Mélange: How has Covid affected AccessNow?

Mélange: Do you have any new projects on stream? What are you working on now?

Maayan: Accessibility outdoors and we’ve been looking at Accessible Trails across Canada.

A lot of people with disabilities are sharing different trails that are accessible and also, people without disabilities are talking about the importance of going outside, hiking and discovering new experiences. We recently announced our partnership with Trans-Canada Trail to identify accessible trails across the country.

Two people in a wheelchair

Mélange: Inclusive employment: what are some of the strengths a person with a disability brings to an organization?

Mélange: What do you think people can do right now to be more accepting and inclusive of people with disabilities?

Maayan Ziv and her friends advocating for inclusion