AccessNow is a mobile app and web platform focused on connecting people to accessible experiences. What started as a grassroots movement to crowdsource information about the accessibility of Toronto places for people with disabilities, has grown to be a global platform focused on sharing reviews and highlighting inclusive businesses.
The AccessNow platform empowers people to search for, rate and discover places and experiences that meet their accessibility needs; from accessible washrooms and parking, to scent-free or quiet spaces, sign language, service animal friendly spaces, and much more.
There’s no denying that this pandemic has been devastating in so many ways for everyone. For people who are immunocompromised, COVID-19 has brought with it a new level of vulnerability, and increased levels of anxiety, sacrifice and isolation. For people with disabilities like myself, this time has forced us to redesign our lives, such as limiting the number of people providing care in home, having others help with grocery runs, moving back home to receive support from family members when possible, and even delaying or canceling necessary medical appointments or procedures to reduce risk of virus exposure.
I’ve heard from members of my community: people who are trapped at home without care or enough to eat; people experiencing health challenges and not able to receive treatment; people dealing with new financial challenges associated with PPE, unemployment and varying caregiver costs.
But it’s not all bad. There is a silver lining amidst the crisis which I have been thinking about a lot; coronavirus could help make the world more accessible.
It’s this new concept that inspired my team at AccessNow to rethink our business. Initially AccessNow was purely focused on the built environment, that is, connecting people to real places out in the world. When lockdown hit, we knew we would have to adapt. We wanted to ensure we could still provide value to our community of people with disabilities and others, and so we quickly broadened our definition of accessibility to include businesses providing service to people at home. We launched the #AccessFromHome directory to help people find businesses offering services at home, and paired it with an ongoing social campaign to raise awareness about the importance of access.
Over the last few weeks I’ve already begun to see some changes to this effect. Remote work is the new normal. Events and meetings have gone digital by default. Even doctor appointments and consultations have gone remote. Medications can be delivered, and businesses around the world are finding ways to be accessible from home, out of necessity.
Because of coronavirus, we must adapt. We are now all forced to respond to what people with disabilities have been demanding for years: increased digital accessibility, workplace flexibility, and remote-work opportunities. Businesses are embracing creativity in a way we haven’t seen before, meeting employees and customers where they are. These types of changes mean that the world is opening up. And hopefully, it’s for good.
Businesses that find a way to cater to more people at home, that is, to be accessible from home, will be the businesses that thrive.
Globally we are witnessing what the disability community has been preaching for for years: accessibility is good for everyone.