ACCESSIBILITY Consultancy is a professional in developed countries — especially in North America and Europe. Design professionals, real estate developers and building owners turn to Accessibility Consultants to ensure that the designs of new buildings are compliant to all applicable local and international accessibility laws, and applicable codes and standards.

It is not uncommon in these countries to go beyond "minimum" requirements. Many integrate the Principles of Universal Design in order to comply with the commitments made by countries that have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which includes the Philippines.

Major property developments overseas also comply with International Codes like the International Standards Organization's ISO 21542 released in July 2021 for Building Construction-Accessibility and Usability of the Built Environment. There are other ISO standards concerning Accessibility that address the needs of persons with different types of disabilities.

It is important to spot and correct any lapses at the start of the design so they do not get carried over to the more detailed phases of design, which may be costlier for design professionals.

Building owners, property managers and real estate developers also turn to Accessibility Consultants to assess the level of compliance to accessibility laws of existing buildings in the light of modifications that may have been undertaken throughout the building's lifespan that may have compromised its accessibility features and facilities.

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Other companies undertake regular accessibility audits because they have made the commitment to diversity, inclusion and accessibility in their corporate culture. These companies have accessible workplaces, accessible employee facilities and amenities, inclusive hiring and employee retention policies, accessible websites or websites that comply to ISO/IEC 40500:2012 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), and other related programs and policies to ensure the integration of employees with disabilities and the provision of inclusive services and facilities for customers with disabilities. These companies have realized that not having accessible ramps, accessible toilets, accessible parking, and other accessibility features and facilities is like telling people with disabilities that they are not important to them, and that they do not want to do business with them.

Local institutions like the Project Inclusion Network Inc. (PIN) and the Philippine Business and Disability Network (PBDN) have been working toward realizing the potential of persons with disabilities to actively participate in, and productively contribute to society. The PBDN has a network of over 150 members from the public, private, nonprofit and civil society organization sectors, which was launched on Jan. 28, 2020.

Overseas, there is the Valuable 500, which is a global collective of 500 CEOs (chief executive officers) and their companies, innovating together for disability inclusion. Their mission is to use the power of business to drive lasting change for the1.3 billion people around the world living with a disability. With the support of their strategic partners — Nippon Foundation, World Economic Forum, International Disability Alliance and Apple — they collaborate and connect with 500 of the world's most influential global businesses for disability inclusion. Each CEO or leader has made a personal commitment to tangible action for disability inclusion.

The author hopes that more local companies and institutions will also adopt the corporate values espoused by the members of PIN, PBDN and the Valuable 500.

Arch. Armand Michael R. Eustaquio's commitment to accessibility spans almost three decades. He was a member of the UAP Task Force Infrastructure Accessibility that crafted the current IRR of BP 344 in 1993. He was deputy chairman of the UAP Committee on Accessibility under the Commission on Government and External Affairs from the year 2000 to 2010. He has served under the administration of seven past National Presidents of the United Architects of the Philippines as chairman of the Accessibility Assessment Project, the Committee on Accessibility Audit and the Committee on Accessibility Audits for Private Buildings successively. To this day he is the first and the only Filipino member of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals based in the US.