Briefing

Federal government awards $2.7 million to crowdsourced accessibility app

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AccessNow, founded by Maayan Ziv at Ryerson University’s DMZ startup incubator in 2015, collects and maps data from users about the accessibility of areas like restaurants, bars and retailers. The app has more than 26,000 locations tagged across 35 countries. The investment, announced by Public Services Minister Carla Qualtrough, was made through the Accessible Technology Program, a $22.3-million fund to be allocated over five years starting in 2017. The company plans to use the funding to grow its team from seven workers to 15 over the next couple years. (The Logic)

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Talking point: Accessibility tech has traditionally been overlooked in the private sector. Ottawa has started taking steps to fill the gaps. In June, it passed the Accessible Canada Act, meant to identify, remove and prevent barriers to accessibility in areas under federal jurisdiction. The law outlines accessibility requirements for public space and includes enforcement and complaint mechanisms for non-compliance. However, it doesn’t go as far as Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), which covers the costs for employers to hire staff with disabilities. The funding for AccessNow is only the second investment made through the Accessible Technology Program since it was announced in the 2017 federal budget. The last investment, $3 million in 2018, went to the Neil Squire Society’s LipSync project, whose technology lets users control smartphones with their mouths.