At the latest TechToronto meetup last week, AccessNow founder Maayan Ziv kicked off her presentation with a photo of a step at an entrance of a business. Ziv, who has muscular dystrophy, summed it up simply: “This sucks, and this could be your business.”
Ziv was presenting ways that startups can promote inclusivity in their business. There are three components of accessibility that in building AccessNow, Ziv didn’t even think about but all businesses can learn from: technology, jobs, and culture.
“You can actually code what you’re building in an accessible or non-accessible way — what does that mean? If you are an image-heavy site, if I’m a user that doesn’t see those images, you can code in a way that describes each of those images,” Ziv said.
In terms of jobs, Ziv challenged everyone in the room to surround themselves with people who can provide different perspectives, as they can help build better products.
“There’s a tendency that people have where we gravitate towards things that we know and like, so we build sometimes teams that are identical pieces of ourselves. Which is kind of nice, but I would suggest you step outside of your comfort zone, look at talent pool that’s around you and then go further to where it isn’t around you,” Ziv said.
While having a team with diverse perspectives and accessible technology are two important first steps, their presence means that ideas of inclusivity should extend to the company’s DNA.
“When I build an event, is it inclusive? Is the messaging inclusive? Does it support other people’s perspectives being brought to the table?” Ziv said. “This is a room of innovators, shakers, and people who change the world. If there’s any opportunity to create a world that’s more inclusive and accessible for everyone, these are the people to do it.”