AccessNow, an online platform that crowdsources information on the accessibility of public spaces and venues, such as restaurants and businesses, has raised $2.7 million from the federal government.
“We’re looking to help change people’s understanding of what they think about when we talk about accessibility.”
The startup, which serves as a community resource for those requiring information about accessibility, offers a TripAdvisor-like user experience that crowdsources the opinions and experiences of its users on various public locations. AccessNow will use the investment to open up the technology’s functionality, pursue community partnerships, in addition to new features that the startup plans to announce later on.
“AccessNow very much began with my own experience,” the startup’s founder and CEO Maayan Ziv told BetaKit. “I’ve used the wheelchair throughout my entire life, trying to figure out which places were actually accessible to me. Before AccessNow, there wasn’t really any platform that could answer the question: is this place going to be accessible?”
Ziv founded the company in Toronto, in 2015. Aside from a $20,000 investment from entrepreneurship program, Next 36, AccessNow was bootstrapped until this most recent grant from the government. The platform currently shares information about public spaces in 35 countries. Ziv said she is looking to engage partners from both the public accessibility sphere, as well as the broader tech ecosystem to scale the platform. The team currently consists of seven people, currently housed in Spaces, which recently opened new locations in Toronto.
“It’s one of the first times that we’re seeing a social enterprise and accessibility based startup based in Toronto, receive this level of funding within a for-profit space,” Ziv said. “Most people assume that a technology startup that’s focused on accessibility should be charities, and we’re definitely not that.”
The government funding comes from the $22.3-million federal Accessible Technology Program, a federal initiative that provides support for the development of assistive and adaptive digital devices and technologies to help make it easier for Canadians with disabilities to participate fully in the digital economy.
Ziv said although it may appear AccessNow is targeted to people with disabilities, she said including friends, family, caregivers, parents with young children, people with temporary injuries, and the ageing population, would mean the market for this platform is actually as large as 58 percent of the Canadian population.
“There’s this assumption that accessibility is something that is geared to people with disabilities specifically, but the population of people who benefit from accessibility is actually much larger than people who experience disabilities,” Ziv said. “People don’t often assume that accessibility is something that they’re benefiting in from in their life. But there are examples every day that are actually speaking exactly to that. We’re looking to help create that narrative, and change people’s understanding of what they think about when we talk about accessibility.”
Image courtesy Maayan Ziv via Twitter