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10 Questions with AccessNow: A ‘Getting to Know Our Canadian Social Enterprises’ Blog

Three semi-finalists for the Social EnterPrize award, AccessNow (ON)Alinker Inventions Inc. (BC) and Living Works Education Inc. (AB), will share their unique ventures at the Pivot on Purpose Summit where audience members will have a chance to vote on which semi-finalist will receive the $25,000 POPular choice award. To help the POP audience and others get to know these social enterprises better, this blog series will have each semi-finalist answer ten questions – five basic questions and five from local funders.*

The Social EnterPrize Award will be presented and the POPular choice occur at the Pivot on Purpose Summit (POP) on November 19, 2021. POP is a three-day summit hosted by the Trico Foundation Social Entrepreneurship Centre at the Haskayne School of Business (more on POP at the bottom of this blog). Registration is open now.

[box] Brief Bio of AccessNow: AccessNow is the go-to resource for accessibility information. A mobile platform, AccessNow empowers people of all abilities to discover and review accessible places, make better decisions and remove barriers around the world. Every review added to the platform is one more instance of advocacy, one more experience that highlights accessibility for all. A Toronto based social enterprise, AccessNow is building an inclusive worldwide community passionate about change. [/box]

Q & A with Maayan Ziv, Founder & CEO of AccessNow:

Five Basic Questions:

  1. What is your social enterprise’s ‘origin story’?
“AccessNow began with the need to solve my own problem. As a wheelchair user, I have always struggled to navigate a world that wasn’t built for me, from steps at entrances, to a lack of ramps, elevators and more. One day in 2014 my university friends and I arrived at an inaccessible venue. I realized that if I had an app that could tell me what was accessible in the neighbourhood, I would spend a lot less time coming up against countless frustrating barriers that constantly set me back. Access to information about the accessibility of places is the first step to discovering a world of inclusive opportunity. That’s how my journey to build AccessNow began.”
  1. What are your current annual sales and annual social impact?
“AccessNow currently makes $1m in annual sales revenue. Our social impact is measured in the ways we build technology, community, and partnerships. To keep it short, currently we share accessibility information about 200K + places in 35 countries and have reached over 8 million people with our mission.”
  1. What are you most proud of regarding your social enterprise?
“What started with my individual struggle to gain a more independent life has grown into a community of doers that celebrate people with disabilities as experts and problem-solvers. In collaboration with governments, corporations and not for profits, I’m proud that our grassroots movement demonstrates why accessibility matters, removing real barriers.”
  1. What’s the next step for your social enterprise?
“As our community grows, we are investing in research to help us uncover even more information about the accessibility of the built environment. We are developing technology leveraging inclusive artificial intelligence to better understand how accessible places are– this development to our platform will allow us to scale efforts globally.”
  1. What’s your ultimate dream for your social enterprise?
“We imagine a day where disabled people aren’t struggling in an environment riddled with barriers. We imagine an entirely accessible future where every person has equal opportunity. We have a lot of work ahead, highlighting accessible places, identifying barriers, and motivating a global community to develop inclusive solutions together.”

Five Questions From Funders*:

  1. When was a time someone showed you compassion and empathy? (Max 50 words)
“I remember sharing my personal story at my first ever university pitch competition and was overwhelmed by how many people reached out to offer their time to help me get started. That initial support I received from the Toronto tech community helped me believe I was on to something special.”
  1. When you look at your origin story, what are the small moments you look back on fondly?
“I was deeply moved when people with disabilities began sharing stories about how AccessNow was helping make life easier. Those were the days I began understanding just how important the power of community really is -together we began building a movement I was yet to understand the magnitude of.”
  1. In what ways has your social enterprise been reshaped by community needs?
“Our community is shaping an ever-evolving definition of what an inclusive experience consists of. AccessNow began as a solution for wheelchair users like myself but has grown to represent a much broader platform including elements like braille, ASL, gender neutral washrooms, scent-free spaces, lighting, sound, change tables, and much more.”
  1. How has your social impact evolved from what you originally envisioned?
“Our mission to create an accessible world has not changed but the “how” behind AccessNow has evolved from a local, purely crowdsourced solution to an inclusive, global AI platform that brings together the voices of grassroots community, corporations, and governments working together to highlight accessibility everywhere and create measurable impact.”
  1. If you had to describe it in one sentence, what is the “why” behind your mission?
“The world is still largely inaccessible to people with disabilities, preventing us from engaging within our communities to establish inclusion and achieve our full potential.”

*The local funders that provided questions are:


More About the Pivot on Purpose Summit (POP): POP, occurring November 18-20, 2021, is a free, virtual gathering that aspires to be the next step in a movement to reimagine the power of business models to solve social problems. POP is held in collaboration with the Trico Charitable Foundation (TCF), the NU Community Board, and the Canadian Sustainable Finance Network. Registration is open now.


POP Highlights Include:

Tariq Fancy, former CIO for sustainability investing at BlackRock Alex Edmans, author of Grow the Pie: How Great Companies Deliver both Purpose and Profit R. Edward Freeman, the thought leader many regard as founder of stakeholder capitalism
21 Canadian social entrepreneurs  Spotlight on Scotland, a world-leader in nurturing social entrepreneurship with initiatives including a 30 million Third Sector Growth Fund And much more! 
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