Why Access Matters: A podcast by Accessibrand,

 

July 29 2022 Transcript

 

 

Why Access Matters: A podcast by Accessibrand (thoughts and talks about accessibility) 

 

“Make your business Accessible!” What do you think of when you hear that? Elevators, Automatic push buttons at the entrance, and ramps?  

As a business owner, would you be worried about the extra work and money you would need to spend? Or would you consider making your business accessible as an investment in your clientele?  

Can you remember when you had difficulty accessing something or somewhere because of the lack of accessibility? It’s frustrating, isn’t it! 

Take a moment to think about how you feel about making your business accessible.  

 

[Music] 

Hello everyone! 

 

I am Jolene MacDonald from Accessibrand, and I’d like to welcome you to the second episode of our podcast “Why Access Matters”.  

In “Why Access Matters,” we proudly and happily bring you thoughts and talks about accessibility. 

Now that you’ve thought about what “Make your business Accessible!” means to you, let’s dig into some facts about it: 

 

The “Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities” states that members should: “Recognize the importance of accessibility to the physical, social, economic and cultural environment, to health and education and information and communication, in enabling persons with disabilities to enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms fully,” 

This gives us a general overview of accessibility, but we’d like to talk about it more from a slightly different perspective, that of lived experience. 

[Music] 

Like we did with our previous podcast, we want to reiterate that: rather than limit it to “high-need persons” or “people with disabilities,” we believe that accessibility is one of the greatest tools in our belts.  

Accessibility is for anyone and everyone regardless of visible or invisible disability. This drives one of the themes in our podcast: Accessibility is necessary for some but beneficial for all of us. 

[Music] 

You might be asking yourself, “What’s so important about accessibility from a business point of view?”   

Considering stats around the relation between business & disability, we can highlight some key points: 

 

Whether a business is brick and mortar or online, there are rules and laws in different countries, regions and provinces that identify the least basic level of accessibility compliance. This word (“compliance”) means the minimum requirements, if businesses and organizations want to avoid potential risks of legal action. 

Beyond that & besides the legal aspect, accessibility rules and laws can also significantly impact the reputation of a business. Poor accessibility practices can harm a business’ reputation, whereas investment in accessibility can truly aid a brand or business to be distinguished & directly benefit from a wider customer base and customer loyalty, which is really invaluable to engagement for any business. 

In Ontario (the province where we live, create and host our podcast), about 1 person out of every 5 people identifies themselves with having one or more disabilities. A whopping 70% of disabilities can be invisible. 

This means a lot of your audience or customers who do not present with a perceivable disability can have some limitations. Additionally, a place or business that is accessible will benefit people without disabilities as well. 

 

To better understand how important, it is to break down barriers, I talked to Maayan Ziv, the CEO of AccessNow: a startup which arose from experiencing the frustration of going to inaccessible places. Rather than being passive, she was motivated to make our world more accessible. In this conversation, she spoke about her lived experience and addressed many key points about how to move toward a more accessible world. 

[Music] 

 

Why Access Matters: A podcast by Accessibrand (thoughts and talks about accessibility) 

 

Hi everyone. I'm Jolene MacDonald, and I am the host of Why Access Matters, Accessibrand's new podcast. And this is our second episode, and we are talking with Maayan Ziv, today, and about her thoughts and experiences on accessibility. So welcome, Maayan. 
 

Maayan Ziv 

Thank you. Thanks so much. 
 

Jolene MacDonald 

I would love it if you could introduce yourself. 
 

Maayan Ziv 

Sure. So my name's Maayan Ziv, I am based in Toronto, and I am an entrepreneur with a disability. What else can I say about myself? I'm the founder and CEO of AccessNow. 

 

Jolene MacDonald 

So, tell us a little bit more about AccessNow and what kind of company it is. 

 

Maayan Ziv 

So AccessNow is very much - started as a response to my own problem. I've been a wheelchair user since I was a very little girl, and throughout my life, I've constantly struggled to navigate spaces and kind of find out if things are actually going to be accessible for me. And so, what started as just like a desire to solve my own problem, has grown into being quite a global movement where basically, AccessNow is a mobile app that allows people to share and review places based on their own lived experience and provide people with further insight about [the] accessibility of places around the world. 

 

Jolene MacDonald 

That's amazing. I've been following you for a little while, and I want to congratulate you on the success and how many people have been using it and talking about it. So that's amazing. [Thank you.] It leads me into, I guess, the next question then, based on your experiences - so what is the message to people who do not know about accessibility? A lot of people are afraid of it and like, especially business owners, because all they see, I think, is dollars. And they worry about, you know, the guidelines for accessibility within each of their provinces or their country. What is your like message to those business owners? 

 

Maayan Ziv 

You know, like, so it's funny. My experience of accessibility was really just limited to my own needs. Growing up, you know, for me, accessibility was defined as, you know, can I get in with my wheelchair? And only when I started building AccessNow did I even realize, you know, how broad accessibility can be and how many people it impacts on a daily basis. So, you know, I think when, when people are not familiar with accessibility, and you know, and I have a disability. So, you know, people might even expect or assume me to know some stuff about the space, but when you have no experience or no exposure to what accessibility is, it can seem like this odd kind of after fact thing that, you know, you need to do to kind of tick off a box and, and that doesn't invite people to be part of this world that, you know, once you've converted, once you learn about the magic and the creativity and the opportunities that accessibility offers, it's a completely different response that, that people gravitate towards. 

So, I think, you know, for people who are not sure what accessibility is about or why it would be important, you know, upwards of 20% of the population today requires some form of access to engage with your business if you are a business owner, and that's a significant amount of people that you would be failing to reach, if you did not consider, you know, how your company, your product, your service or language, is actually, supportive to this customer base. So even on a dollar front, it sounds like, “oh, this is something expensive that now I have to go do,” but investing in accessibility has - there is a return and not only do you directly now open your doors, both physical or digital to - to many more people, but you also earn kind of this, recognition as a company that is open, and flexible and inclusive and in today's world, that goes a really long way. 

 

Jolene MacDonald  

That's great. I think, you know, we don't work on the physical side of accessibility, but I'm one of those people until I was faced with, you know, understanding and learning about disability firsthand, mostly because of my daughter being born with dwarfism, it was like the light bulb went off and you, once that happens, you can't ignore it. So, I, well, I think some people can, I don't know how, but you know, from a business owner perspective with my other company and this one, when you talk to people, all they see is the dollars, and it's almost like they're afraid even to take one step. Is there one small step that you could give to people to say, just start here? Is there one small thing? I mean more on the physical aspect, I guess, because a lot of people, obviously there's some buildings that have problems with retrofitting; what can you give as an advice, like one small step, just to start? 

 

Maayan Ziv 

Yeah. So it's interesting. So we put out, this article a little while back called How to be an ally?, and in this article, I kind of list out different ways to show up, and they can be, you know, as significant as like reevaluating your hiring practices, but down to like - just follow disabled influencers and creators on the social media channels you're already on. And that could be a tiny first step to being exposed to a different reality, because there are incredible creators on Instagram and TikTok, and they share, you know, perspectives on life that we don't often get to see in mainstream media. And so, if you have no exposure to the world of accessibility or disability, a great way to learn is just from the direct, authentic representation of people who can tell stories. [Mm-hmm ] so I would definitely recommend, you know, to just go on social media and just look for hashtags around disability or accessibility and kind of be amazed by the humour, the creativity, the joy, the struggle that you know, this world comes with. 

 

Jolene MacDonald 

Absolutely. Thanks for that. If you don't mind later sharing that article on how to be an ally, I would love to be able to include that so other people can read it. I think, you know, with COVID the big “C word” that's been happening for so long, based on the changes that have happened in society through COVID, what would you like to see, like, the general public's approach to accessibility? We think it plays obviously a vital role in society, but not just for people with disabilities, like there've been a lot of positive things that have come out of COVID; a lot of bad things, but a lot of really great things. What are your thoughts on that? 

 

 

Maayan Ziv  

Yeah, it's COVID is, it's brought up a lot [Yeah.] It's brought up a lot of things that were, we knew as a community were there for years and ignored, and it also kind of highlighted new things, and you know, I think there are some significant fractures, that even just throughout COVID, the disability community has had to face. And there's a lot of healing that I'd say needs to be done. Being a person who might be considered, you know, part of that vulnerable population that was mentioned in the media, hearing governments and, and media, in early days of COVID, talk about like it's not a big deal, the only people who will be discarded are people who, you know, whose lives are worthless [Yeah.] It is basically kind of what the messaging was that doesn't easily go away. 

It's really hard to live in a world where you're basically consistently told and reinforced that as a disabled person, you know, we're not going to take the same measures to protect you. That is some of the negative stuff that's come along with what COVID brought upon, kind of, the world, but there are some positives that you if you look at the silver lining of it, I think a lot like lately, what I've noticed, cause I ask myself like, is this a phase? Is it going away? Are some of the learned behaviours going to stay with us or not obviously, you know, this concept of remote work, you know, work from anywhere, work online, flexible hours, you know, we're seeing that even as companies try to reintroduce, you know, “we want you back in an office,” in general, people are not really positively responding to that. 

[Yeah. ] Which I actually think is great. It means that people have learned that there are new ways to do things, ways that, you know, that people with disabilities have been advocating for, for years, but okay, fine. It took a global crisis to get to the point we're here. So that's a positive that, you know, there are many more opportunities to work, in many different formats now. Another one I'd say is just flexibility, which is kind of connected, but you know, I, I can tell you even just this week alone as the world kind of starts to re-figure out, you know, where people should be working from, is, is, is this going to be an in-person meeting? Am I going to meet them on zoom still? Something really interesting is that as things change or come up in your life - I, I used to feel this tremendous pressure to stick to the schedule and feel like if I would have to cancel a meeting, whether it be for a health concern or a logistics issue in my life, that I would just like be failing. 

And I think everyone has a million things going on in the background of their lives, and we're still living through and with a pandemic and whatever a new normal will be. And I think people are more flexible and understanding, and there's a greater extension of empathy around change and flexibility. So, “Hey, sorry. You know, my, my, my daughter needs to be picked up from school. Can we reschedule?” Those types of things are okay. Whereas I think it used to be a lot less accepted in a professional environment to move things around, to be flexible, and to be open to change. 

 

Jolene MacDonald  

You have resonated with me so much through this. I know, through COVID, you know, myself and my daughter - mostly my daughter – we’re in the vulnerable sort of title as what you were talking about for yourself. And I couldn't believe that verbiage and that ripple went through the disability community online, for sure. Because you saw that quote, you know, the only ones that are really at risk are the vulnerable, so basically, what does it matter anyways? And I - I- I, it was shocking for me to see that because it really brought to light people's perceptions on disability and how we're not equal. And I think we'd really like to help keep breaking through the glass ceiling, so to speak, on people's perceptions of that. And it's people like your company and your team and ours and others, I think we can prove that wrong. 

 I think, you know, many people on our team also required that flexibility before COVID. So the fact that we have built something like that, and I think you have that within your team - so many people that never identified, as having disabilities or mental health issues or anything like that, all of a sudden, because of COVID, did have them. So, I recognized that, and more people actually reached out to me, and they said, how can you be all alone? How can, how are you operating the business? Like I'm like, it's actually so much easier for me; the expectation of not being in-person to a meeting because I don't know what my health is going to be like that day or being there for my kids. And it seems just more acceptable. So, I really hope that that flexibility definitely doesn't change. I think people are more productive when you put that trust in them too, and you're not hovering over them and micromanaging them. Right. So that's a great insight. I really appreciate that. There are just so many things to say about the last three years, really, right? but I think one of our other questions too, is, is based on that, what is your advice to anyone who wants to support accessibility and understands that? We talk about activists and advocates, because there are a lot of people who just want to learn. What's your advice to people? 

 

Maayan Ziv 

Yeah. Well, first, I'd say that like not every disabled person wants to be an advocate or an activist, and that is fine , and I think it's really important to kind of like state that because I think that there's this assumption that disabled people are here on the planet to safeguard, protect, and advocate for all the things that we need. And although, yes, we are the ones with the most experience, and we are the ones who can educate, it cannot just be simply the battle of us versus them. And we need to have people without disabilities recognizing their responsibilities if we're going to get anywhere close to an accessible and inclusive anything. So, I, I, I really appreciate the question because I think, you know, if, if you're thinking about how to show up, sometimes it's just a simply a matter of amplifying, sometimes it's, you know, recognizing someone who has something to say and helping create the space for that to be heard [Mm-hmm ] so that could be around a board room that could be on social media. 

That could be, just on a one to one, like I think the importance of, of acknowledging that voice or that perspective that someone who, you know, finally has the courage to say, I want to say something or I want to contribute acknowledging and seeing someone who wants to do that and, and supporting them in, in those steps is really important. And it doesn't seem like a big deal but it can really be. I remember even for me like when I started out, I call myself an activist, I call myself an advocate, but when I was younger. I was just looking around the world and seeing things that were broken. I wanted to make them different, you know, I had a few teachers and a few, just close friends who just helped me feel safe in expressing those concerns, helped me feel like it was okay to, you know, reject the status quo and their roles in my life helped me gain the confidence to become my own activist and an advocate for, for many others. So, I'd say that, you know, it might seem like a really soft skill or a really kind of quiet thing, but it can be tremendously impactful. When you recognize someone who is struggling or wants to say something, and you help create the space for them to do that. 

 

Jolene MacDonald 

Yeah. I think social media certainly helped provide some voices to that. Like you said before, there are so many people on, you know, TikTok, especially right now, like there's disability TikTok, and you can learn and find out so much from them. It it's almost like, I feel like people with disabilities have just been stuck in the dark for so long from the public. And I feel like there's a bit of an uprising right now, I think. [Yeah.] You know, maybe it's because I'm in the algorithms that I'm seeing it more, and I'd love to hear other people's opinions that aren't in the algorithms to hear how often they're seeing the stories about people. And of course, we also want to break those typical stereotypes like, “Oh, they're so inspirational because they have a disability, and they're like yourself running this really amazing company.” 

Why, how do we change those perceptions? Right. Like it's really no different. We're just dealing with things in, in a different way. So, I, I would love to hear how we could help more people understand the difference. And, and again, I think every, everyone in life is going to be affected by disability. You don't think about it. Most don't know about it, but it's bound to happen. Whether it's [Mm-hmm, ] permanent situational, temporary, or when you become an aging person, you are going to have disabilities. So, I think how do we break the stigma of the word disability too? That is, people think it's so negative and pitiful. 

 

Maayan Ziv  

Yeah. Yeah. And that one's yeah…I, I don't think disability is a dirty word. I'm proud to call myself a disabled person. And I really, I see that not everyone is there and even people with disabilities don't, you know, accept that terminology. I think we should unpack, - probably not on this podcast!  

 

Jolene MacDonald  

We have a few hours! 

 

Maayan Ziv 

I think we should unpack like why people are so repulsed by those words; what is it about both disabled and non-disabled people that those words are like taboo or uncomfortable. And, if we can't even find language to talk about an issue, how are we supposed to get past that into much more deeper things? So it, I, it's a big it's on my mind a lot, you know, and even I was on a panel, last week and people who, you know, represent, different communities within the disability population where we're on the panel and, you know, one person wanted to, you know, say special abilities and another person said special - so I was just like, this is all over the place. Can we just land on something that we're all cool and neutral on? So anyway, it's a bit of an aside, but I think language is really powerful. It's, it's - changes all the time. And I, I really love the recent shift to just reclaiming disabled, and I think it's really powerful and important. 

 

Jolene MacDonald  

Thank you so much for that. Do you have any other thoughts that you would like to share? 

 

Maayan Ziv 

I don't know like it's, it's, I could talk about this stuff for hours, I think it's really important. And it's nice to talk to people who kind of are, are getting it, because you can just get even deeper into the conversation, but really I am in your hands. 

 

Jolene MacDonald 

Absolutely. 

 

Farshid Sadatsharifi  

Can I add a question? 

 

Jolene MacDonald 

Yes. 

 

Farshid Sadatsharifi  

Maybe when people check what you were doing in the past, it's bringing maybe a false assumption to their mind that you were looking at mostly [the] physical accessibility aspect of a place, but what do you think about a digital approach to that? Because one of the things that we need to do advocacy about - its accessibility is not just about physical access. Now even digital accessibility is more important and crucial. So what do you think about that? It's a good add to whatever you said, I think. 

 

Maayan Ziv 

Yeah. I think accessibility definitely is, is in my mind defined quite broadly. And there's a distinction made between the physical and digital world, but there's also a lot of blending that happens. You know, like we were, over the summer, we mapped, kind of, a few cities in Canada, from different perspectives. And we asked people from the community to work with us, to map, you know, every storefront, every hotel, every restaurant, every park; you name it. And what we found was that something that we didn't really think about was how much digital tech is in the built environment. How many times do you tap to pay something for something, or you swipe, or you gesture, or there are elements of technology that are in our world that we don't even recognize have become part of our physical environment. 

How you determine what restaurant to go to often starts with sitting at home, looking at things online, reviewing materials, reading reviews, looking at a menu. And if those things are not accessible online, how do you even know where you're going? So, I think it's an end-to-end thing. It's not one or the other. Definitely, there's a lot of awareness for like the classic one step at the entrance. I'm a wheelchair user, and this is my biggest frustration. That's like, that's a very well-known barrier because it's extremely visible and socialized. But I think accessibility touches every single part of our lives. So I think it's, it's across the board. 

 

Jolene MacDonald 

Yeah. I know with COVID from a digital perspective, everything was so furious and fast to get out, that accessibility was often never part of their project plans. You know, one of our teammates couldn't book their second COVID vaccine because it was so fast to roll out. One of the things that we've identified is the lack of education, even in the schools, like in, in the post - like colleges and universities, unless the professor knows about it, it's not integrated into the curriculum. So, I would love, you know, for all of us to go after that too, to try and educate better. But, a lot of people think that that accessibility is just their website, and that's, that's a full stop, but it is their signage. So, it is like you're saying, it's the pieces, the apps, and all of that. And there's certainly value in: a lot of people understanding the importance of testing, but they're still using, you know, you know, the automated testers online that are free. We liken it too, you know, both of you have experienced, a five-centimeter curve means you can't get into a building. Well, your website might be 95%, but what's happening in that 5%, that's just as critical as the other 95. If it means someone can't order groceries or pay a bill, you know, or get their vaccine. I know that we'd love to see more people think about that as part of their project scope rather than, “oh, here it is all done, now we'll test it.” Mm-hmm I think we're still a long way away. I think all of us in accessibility hope we're out of a job one day because that means we're living in an equitable and accessible world, but I appreciate your insights on that. Is there anything else you'd like to share about AccessNow? 

 

Maayan Ziv 

 I don't know. Like, we started a few years ago, and we grew a lot over the course of the pandemic as well. We map and share information about accessible places all around the world with and for people with disabilities and anyone else who requires access. And I'm really excited about this summer. We're, we're back kind of out in the world, mapping, creating events, and just helping people get connected to accessible experiences. So, we're always looking for new people to join our community. If it sounds like something that people want to contribute to, or just, you know, next time you need an accessible “any place.” We'd love to hear feedback on how we're doing and if there are things we've missed. 

 

Jolene MacDonald 

Make sure we'll say shameless plug, make sure to download - 

 

Maayan Ziv 

- That's my plug  

 

Jolene MacDonald 

Yeah. Make sure to download the app, everyone. Well, that's so amazing. I'm so excited that we got to meet and chat and hear about your journey. I think we really hope that this podcast can reach more people so they can hear about the lived experiences from people in the community from all different sectors. So thank you again so much for joining us, and we hope to chat with you again too. 

 

Maayan Ziv 

Great. Thanks so much. 

 

Farshid Sadatsharifi  

Thank you so much. That was very great to hear from you and learn from you. 

 

Maayan Ziv 

Thank you. 

 

[END OF INTERVIEW] 

 

Why Access Matters: A podcast by Accessibrand (thoughts and talks about accessibility) 

This podcast is published thanks to funding from CCRW (Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work)  
CCRW’s Mission is to promote and support meaningful and equitable employment of people with disabilities. Check out their services at: CCRW [dot] org. 

 

Hello again everyone! 

I am Jolene from Accessibrand, and welcome to our podcast “Why Access Matters”. You just heard a conversation that I had with Maayan Ziv, CEO of AccessNow. 

 

Please take a moment to reflect and focus on some parts of what she said and ask yourself some questions: 

 

- Maayan spoke to us about people who are concerned that making an accessible business is something expensive that they have to do now per the law, instead of seeing it as investing in accessibility. 

Can you recall a moment when you or someone you know was worried about cost over the benefit of an investment? 

- Do you know anyone who took these steps and found that their business had more reach and more positive outcomes? If yes, please share their story with us, we would love to hear about their experiences, and yours! 

 

- Maayan told us about her article “How to be an Ally” and she recommended going on social media and looking for hashtags around disability or accessibility so we could see the humour, creativity, joy, and struggle “that this world comes with.” Have you done this before, or are you considering it? If no, give it a shot! If yes, please share your experiences and impressions with us!  
 
And last but not least, please find the link to Maayan’s social media, as well as her amazing app and check it out! We put all the links we mentioned in the description of our podcast for you! 

 

[Music]            

       

Please send us your thoughts, ideas, and any feedback you have to our email, to:  Jolene [at] Accessibrand.com, or in the comments at our Apple Podcast page and Castbox, or under our posts on social media; we love when people connect there, and you can find those in the description box of our episodes. 

 

[Music]                  

 

 

Well, we’ve reached the end! 

I am Jolene MacDonald from Accessibrand. Thanks for your patience and time in listening to me, my colleagues and our special guest, Maayan Ziv, in our second episode of “Why Access Matters”.  

The next episode will follow on the last Friday of August, the 26th, but until then, please: 

- Send us your thoughts and ideas! 

- Follow our podcast in pod catchers like Apple Podcast, Google, and Spotify or any other platform you listen to podcasts on,  

- Follow our fabulous guest Maayan Ziv and our admirable sponsor C.C.R.W. via the links in the description of our podcast, and 

- Don’t forget to introduce us to your friends, family and network! 

Please consider checking out our website if you need any accessibility services and would like to utilize the valuable lived experience and expertise of persons with disabilities. You can visit our website at: www.accessibrand.com 

 

Why Access Matters: A podcast by Accessibrand (thoughts and talks about accessibility) 

This podcast is published thanks to funding from CCRW (Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work)  
CCRW’s Mission is to promote and support meaningful and equitable employment of people with disabilities. Check out their services at: CCRW [dot] org.