By Marco Pasqua
I wasn’t always interested in accessibility. While it has played a vital part of my life—I have Cerebral Palsy and use a wheelchair—it wasn’t something I imagined I would pursue professionally. I trained to be a videogame designer, a field I was employed in for many years, but limited access to jobs and experiences led me down a different path.
My profession is to advocate for the removal of physical and mental barriers and greater inclusion for people with disabilities.
When I heard that the Accessibility Professional Network was launching in August 2019, I was one of the first to join. The network unites and provides support to those with a professional or personal interest in the industry. A first of its kind in Canada. A big deal. As an RHFAC Professional myself, I knew the network was going to advance my knowledge and skillset in order to best perform my job.
There is a directory of certified professionals and three levels of membership: Accessibility Associate, for anyone who has experience or interest in accessibility in the built environment; RHFAC Professional, for anyone who holds the designation; and Accessibility Student, for those who are currently studying in the field.
Through online discussion forums and in-person meetups, the Accessibility Professional Network encourages collaboration in the industry. One of the biggest benefits to me personally is the opportunity to expand my knowledge through a variety of professional development resources, including monthly webinars hosted by industry professionals. The webinars are a fantastic learning opportunity to improve our knowledge and understanding of accessibility. Topics have included innovation in accessible design, emergency evacuation systems in the built environment, and legal liability for independent consultants.
The network’s portal also features a directory of RHFAC Professionals for organizations and businesses who are keen to learn about the accessibility of their spaces through an RHFAC rating. The booking process is simplified as business owners and managers can view profiles of professionals in their area, contact them, and book their rating—advancing their path to accessibility.
I had the incredible honour of being the emcee at the Accessibility Professional Network 1st Annual Conference, which took place on October 31st and November 1st in Toronto. It was a powerhouse event where accessibility professionals from all over Canada came together under one roof, learning about the latest changes happening in our country with the shared goal of increasing access. The lineup of speakers was impressive—this is why I refer to the conference as the rock concert for access change makers.
Not only was this valuable as an accessibility professional, but it was encouraging as someone who has a disability. It also reinforced the simple fact that we’re stronger together. Having this platform to discuss and collaborate makes an accessible Canada feel more possible than ever.
At the end of the day everyone has a right to be active participants in their community. That’s what accessibility is: meaningful, true participation from all people. Learning from leaders and connecting with peers who are working hard every day to make the places we interact with more inclusive is a sure-fire way to advance accessibility across the country and the world.
With the Accessibility Professional Network, we’re one step closer.
Marco Pasqua is an accessibility consultant and inspirational speaker.
To join the Accessibility Professional Network, go to RickHansen.com/APN