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Home » Accessibility is Innovation: Creating Inclusive Spaces for All

Accessibility is Innovation: Creating Inclusive Spaces for All

Dispatch by Elaine Coburn

“I kept getting stuck in the street. I would quite literally come up against barriers in the built environment,” Maayan Ziv recalls. “This had me feeling othered, like I was not part of the design of the environments that I was navigating through.”

Frustrated by her experiences as a wheelchair user, Ziv founded AccessNow in 2015. She is now the CEO of the company, which advocates for inclusive and welcoming built environments.

AccessNow is now working with 15 other private and non-profit partners in the new Accelerating Accessibility Coalition (AAC), a partnership that was announced at an event held at the World Urban Pavilion in Regent Park on November 29, 2022. Together, the partners are working to spur Canada to become a more accessible nation, Ziv observed, beginning with the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton.

The AAC is rooted in the recognition that, Ziv emphasized, “the voices of people with disabilities are integral to making progress.” For that reason, the AAC brings together disability advocacy organizations, like the Rick Hansen Foundation, with real estate actors.

Maayan Ziv is the founder and CEO of AccessNow

“How are you navigating the spaces where you live, where you work, where you learn, and where you play?” Ziv asked audience members at the November event. Ziv then turned to a panel of disability experts, asking them to share their insights.

Tim Rose, a disability and diversity consultant, observed that legislators and developers need to be proactive in ensuring accessibility in the built environment.

“Accessibility,” he notes, “should be built in, not bolted on.”

“The aim,” Rose adds, “is to build communities where people with disabilities can live without barriers—and thrive.”

Lorene Casiez, a Senior Associate of Accessibility and Wellness at Human Space, agreed.

“Accessibility is about living in an environment that people want to be in, a place where they are comfortable.”

This means that everyone needs to take responsibility for learning about how to make spaces accessible. This demands a willingness to learn.

Jacob Cohen is the Chief Operating Officer at Daniels Corporation, a developer, builder and partner in the AAC. He acknowledged that accessibility was not always a priority for his business. That changed as more and more clients asked to modify their homes to make them accessible. This reflects the significant numbers of people living with disabilities across Canada.

“According to Statistics Canada, one in five Canadians aged 15 years and over identified as having at least one disability,” Cohen observed. “And yet,” he added, “most existing homes do not meet those needs.”

Meeting those needs requires us to think about accessibility in new ways, Rose remarked.

“We don’t need a boring medical lecture,” he explained. “Accessibility is about innovation. It requires that spark of creativity from the change-makers across Canada.”

When it works, it is exciting for all involved.

“The innovation and design process can be wonderful,” Casiez noted, “especially when you have design partners such as landscapers, architects, and interior designers who are open to dialogue about doing better and who aren’t afraid to ask about how they can do better!”

Still, it is not always an easy journey.

“Sometimes I get advocacy fatigue,” Ziv observed. “After all, we are talking about human dignity. We are talking about human rights. We are talking about the right to be safe and secure.”

“Why is that a question,” Ziv continued, “and not just a given?”

“That is why we are here,” she concluded, “to accelerate that learning.”

To see the video of the event inaugurating the AAC see:
The learn more about AccessNow, see
To learn more about the Acceleration Access Coalition, see:
For events at the World Urban Pavilion, see
To learn about the Daniels Corporation see: