Startups address accessibility issues in Toronto


Maayan Ziv wants the world to be accessible to everyone.

“Do you notice boundaries in the community?” Ziv asked.

She does. And that’s why her company, Access Now, teamed up with 500px to bring Toronto its first accessible photo walk.

Photography enthusiasts gathered at Yonge-Dundas Square recently for the event. 

The event was led by Ziv, who founded Access Now, and Evgeny Tchebotarev, co-founder of 500px.

500px is an online photography community that allows photographers to post their work for digital sale and exposure.

Access Now is a community-based app that aims to map locations and how accessible they are.


So far, Access Now has pinned over 1,000 locations in more than 90 cities worldwide as accessible or inaccessible to people with disabilities.

Everyone began assembling around 3 p.m. to catch the day’s best light.

The Ryerson Digital Media Zone provided coffee for the event which the group took full advantage of before the chilly walk began.

Both 500px and Access Now have their roots in the Ryerson DMZ, which ranks first for university-based business incubators in Canada and ranks fifth worldwide.

Ziv is disabled and rides in a wheelchair.

“It started with my own problems,” she said, “I decided to build this up as a way to crowd source information.”

A photographer by trade, Ziv described the accessible photo walk as having two goals.

The first was to get more disabled people involved in the photography community because Ziv said she “wasn’t encountering many people with disabilities” in her field.

“The idea was to build this inclusive community” of photographers, she said.

The second of Ziv’s goals for the walk was to use photography itself to create awareness.

“I think there’s such tremendous power in photography,” Ziv told the group before they started the walk “This is what community is about.”

Tchebotarev asked participants to take pictures of “what best portrays what #AccessToronto means to you,” whether that was something accessible, inaccessible or otherwise.

500px offered prizes, provided by Henry’s Camera and Fujifilm, for the best photos from the walk posted to its site under the hashtag #AccessToronto.

Professional and amateur photographers came together with their DSLRs and smartphones to snap pictures of the most and least accessible places in downtown Toronto.

About 50 people in total were either walking or rolling with the group.

The walk took a route filled with twists and turns that led through the Metropolitan United Church grounds near Queen and Church streets then down to St. James Park and finally to the St. Lawrence Market.

“Making sure people who have accessibility needs can get where they need to go” is what #AccessToronto means to Ken Lee, a 36-year-old amateur photographer “Elevators, ramps, everything.”

Photos from the walk can be viewed on 500px’s website under the hashtag #Access Toronto.