People who have learned about Maayan Ziv through her recent TV appearances or through her online app AccessNow know she dreams of a world without physical barriers. But there is so much more to her than that.
Born with muscular dystrophy, Ziv grew up in Richmond Hill, Ontario. She credits her years spent at the prestigious Waldorf School for nurturing her creativity. During this period, she got into acting and even writing short plays. Ziv applied to Ryerson University’s Theatre Arts program, despite the fact that its building was inaccessible.
In 2013, she accepted the opportunity to act and collaborate on a production with Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre, called Borne. “It was a good experience, and even though I’m not acting in anything right now, it’s still a part of who I am,” she says.
“Photography is my first love,” she says. According to one of her blog entries, her love of photography was established in 2006 while in New York City. Her wheelchair got damaged on the flight to New York. “I wasn’t able to make it to all the places I had planned but instead found myself spending the rest of my trip observing people, taking in the streets of New York… and taking pictures.”
She taught herself photography at age 16. Her portfolio includes everyday people, fashion models, and even celebrities (e.g. Edward Norton, Keri Russel and David Onley, former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario).
Beginning of AccessNow
In 2014, Ziv was accepted into Ryerson’s new Digital Media program. It was during her year as a student that she came up with the idea of AccessNow, an app highlighting barrier-free places. I told her about other apps focusing on accessibility similar to her AccessNow. (I sent her my story on the Wheelmap app prior to the interview.)
“(Creating AccessNow) wasn’t scary for me,” Ziv says, adding that it didn’t discourage her from wanting to make her own app. “There are many different apps now. When I started there were three or four prominent ones, and within a year of AccessNow’s existence, they’ve been popping up everywhere.”
AccessNow was launched in August 2015. Ziv says a mobile version of the AccessNow app is in the works. “People have been asking for it since day one! It will be launching this summer. I’m super-excited about that because it will allow people to pin and share experiences or review a place from wherever you are at any time.”
Prior to taking Digital Media, she completed a Radio and Television Arts degree at Ryerson. She has presently struck up a relationship with CBC. She hosted and produced a radio special for them (Shifting Space), and occasionally writes for their website. “I’m interested in telling stories about access, and bringing forth the perspectives of people with disabilities in the mainstream,” she says.
So what enables Maayan Ziv?
“What enables me are levels of understanding, where people understand that everything is possible. I’ve believed that, and having a community of people who believe that enables me to go out and do whatever I want.”
A week after I interviewed her, she was honoured with David Onley’s Youth Leadership Award for Accessibility, at a ceremony held at Queen’s Park. She was also honoured with the UJA (United Jewish Association) Federation’s Inclusion Award of Excellence.