Maayan Ziv experienced that the smaller spaces between the street and doorways are generally neglected by city planning, since they often challenge not only disabled persons. To gather information on the accessibility of public spaces and thus make a change in urban development, she founded the web platform AccessNow.
Fast subways, carpool lanes, and a responsive traffic light system are essential for highly mobile cities; and apps like Yelp and Google Maps help users navigate around them.
But from a personal perspective, mobility can be a question of whether there is a ramp instead of a staircase leading to your favorite café. Until recently, little existed to help map accessibility for people with disabilities – a fact which catalyzed AccessNow founder Maayan Ziv to action.
Mobility meets accessibility
“As someone who uses a wheelchair to get around, finding accessible places has always been a difficult process,” Ziv explains. Frustrated with arriving somewhere she thought was accessible, only to find steps at the entrance, she realized there was incredible opportunity in exchanging information on obstacles at places.
That made her pursue a simple yet brilliant idea: develop a web platform to be used by millions of people around the world as a platform to share and map accessible locations in their own cities.
“We can get in, party, and go home with no problem.”
For a city to be considered mobile, it must meet a range of qualifications from walkability, to low traffic congestion, to efficient public transport. The same is true of accessibility on AccessNow.
“Rather than a ‘one size’ fits all accessibility rating, places are tagged with the accessibility features they have, such as accessible washroom, ramp, elevator, braille or spaciousness.”
The idea is to provide information in a way that allows each individual to decide if the places they want to go are accessible for them. And – to Ziv and other users of AccessNow – ‘accessible’ means: “We can get in, party, and go home with no problem.”
Beyond creating a means to an end, Ziv continues to use the platform to advocate for accessibility. She invites urban developers and accessibility thinkers to work with the data her users are generating to help build more accessible cities.
“Good accessibility is really just good design and customer service – it benefits everyone. Designers, planners, developers, creative makers, should integrate accessibility into the initial plans of whatever they are building.”
AccessNow has been a clear success. Since its debut, the platform has mushroomed to 180 cities around the world, with pins in Canada, US, Australia, Mexico, parts of Europe, South Africa and more. An associated app is in progress.
“Whether you are a person with a disability or not, you will need accessibility at some point in your life,” Ziv appeals. “I invite everyone to join our community, to create a world where everyone has access, now. Start today by adding your first pin to the map!”