If any company in US or Canada promises Certification in Accessible Audits BUYER BEWARE

BUYER BEWARE When you read “Building Accessibility Excellence Program (BAEA) 
Certification Program; There is no such thing and this certification can be downright dangerous and ill founded

The less than scrupulous entrepreneurs who suddenly label themselves not only as accessibility “experts” but as being able to certify lay people as being certified as “Building Accessibility experts or BAEA’s” abound in Ontario and in the US.
Olga Dosis and I wanted to address this in an effort to ensure you the “buyer” be fully aware that these promises to certify or as being certified is being used purely as a selling tool and also represent potential liabilities for your company. The liabilities will occur within the Human Rights Code for Ontario or the complaints driven ADA in the case of the USA related to accommodation and accessibility. The second area of liability will arise over time from audits of your company’s AODA programs and mandatory processes expected by the Directorate of Ontario, in which case daily penalites can be levied. The third area of liability will rest with civil suits where a non-bona fide “certification” system within Ontario and states Build Codes audits and recommendations completed by non-qualified consultants will result in accidents, build code violations and even loss of life. This loss of life or accidents may well occur where a “certified” lay person referring to themselves as Building Accessibility experts recommend a build code change to accommodate a certain type of disability which endangers the life of that person or someone with another type of disability or with no disability at all.
This “game” of letting employers and lay persons think they can attend a course about building accessibly and then be certified is at best, a naive way of quickly making money from the AODA and ADA Regulations and at worst a dangerous and cynical approach to an unimformed marketplace.
So who really would meet Certification requirements and the work experience to audit a workplace or building and make recommendations about the Build Code for each State or Province? Our past, current and future recommendations to clients and any companies in the US or Ontario who ask us about this is a dedicated team of accessible design experts should conduct audits of your workplace, building, space. The team should be comprised of Interior Designers/Architects/Contractors who are certified in the Build Code for the jurisdiction in which your building is located; coupled with ADA, AODA and Accessible Build Code experts who will have formal University/College level degrees in the area of AODA/ADA Design/Code and Cross Disability Studies. The teaming of experts is the real answer, not a short course of E-Learning followed by the promise of being a certified Building Accessibility expert.
Don’t forget we are not talking about relatively simple recommendations such as colour contrast on a wall or designing a directional sign. We may be talking about altering the structural support in a soon-to-be-accessible washroom; the design and installation of a way- finding sign which keeps an unsighted person from walking into a hazardous area; or a customer or employee with a cognitive or learning disability not being made aware of an area of a building which is hazardous to enter; pinch points in a escalator which results in loss of limbs etc. The stakes are high relative to the Building Audits, interpretation of Build Codes and Accessible Codes coupled with the resulting recommendations and guidance for employers, building owners, facility managers and end-users.
The use of University/College educated and long-term experienced teams of experts such as Interior Designers, Contractors, Facility Managers (the experience should include audits and accessible design of multiple building types, sizes and complexity for example) and Accessibility experts (University education in the areas of Human Factors Design/Ergonomic Design/Disability Studies and Design) is who the bona fide experts are.  These experts will also have the appropriate insurance in place to protect your firm, building, facility in the case of accidents, law suits and Human Rights/AODA/ADA related claims.
As in any purchasing decisions made for your building, facility, workplace, school or hospital, always ask for complete resumes of the “experts”; ensure they have the correct degrees, years of experience in multiple settings, no past history of liabilities or actions against them and the use of an ACCESSIBILITY TEAM to ensure all aspects of accessibility are addressed; review the type of insurance the accessibility auditing team carry and the amount of liability coverage in place; interview and establish a working relationship with the accessibility auditing team. Then as the project proceeds including in depth, science  based audits; build code review; recommendations and guidance on the part of the consulting team ensure your own internal team works closely with them to assure communication and recommendations are clear.
Many of us would love to learn to be Doctors, Lawyers, Physiotherapists and even Ergonomists by taking a few weeks of study and having a private firm “certify” us. All reasonable people know however that these specializations take years of study and years of experience to achieve. The old adage of Buyer Beware needs to come to the fore as many lay people hang out a shingle saying they are accessiblity and disability experts in Ontario and the US. If the promise of certified accessible building assssors (BAEA for example) sounds too be good to be true, it is. OPC Inc and our team of Interior Designers/Architects/FM’s and contractors wants to ensure the marketplace knows this up front before a serious accident occurs. Lives, limbs and creating equal access to the marketplace, workplaces and public spaces is at stake for Ontario and the US. This is serious business.
Olga Dosis BA, Masters Psychology, Masters Disability Studies
JESleeth Hon B.P&H.E. (Kin), Hon B.Sc.P.T.
Members Association of Interior Designers Ontario (ARIDO), Interior Designers of Canada (IDC), International Facility Managers Association of Canada and National Institute of Building Sciences

Want to read more about this topic? Read our next Blog about the Audits conducted on 110 of the LCBO stores in Ontario by OPC Inc and how an anonymous spot audit by OPC showed how the LCBO has not made accessibilty part of its customer service culture or design.

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