L to R: Kim and Uli Egger
Uli Egger is a graduate of VCC’s Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification™ (RHFAC) training program. Here he shares his journey to becoming an RHFAC Accessibility Certification Specialist and Adjudicator for the RHFAC program.
What sparked your desire to complete RHFAC Training?
My wife Kim and her friend Marney both sustained spinal injuries as young people. They were at a peer coffee group where the RHFAC was discussed as an employment opportunity for people with disabilities and lived experience. People with disabilities have the highest rate of unemployment so this is a great opportunity. They thought I would be a good fit, as I am a hard of hearing person and acutely aware of the barriers in the built environment for people who have low vision, limited mobility, and are hard of hearing/Deaf.
Can you share something interesting about your journey to reach this moment?
I retired early and was looking for something meaningful to do. After I finished the VCC RHFAC Training course, I was hired on at the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) for an 18-month contract. When the contract ended, I thought I would rate sites for accessibility, creating my own company (which I did). However, I was asked to stay on with RHF full-time doing adjudication, public speaking, and related RHFAC work. Now I am an Accessibility Certification Specialist at the Rick Hansen Foundation. I am also the one of the Adjudicators for the RHFAC program.
What was the best part about studying at VCC?
The campus is conveniently located in Metro Vancouver, adjacent to bus and SkyTrain service. The building where the I took the training course was easy to navigate, well illuminated, had accessible washrooms and elevators for every level.
What impact did VCC instructors have on your success?
My instructor, Pat Short, is a certified adult educator and teaches adults, some who may have been out of the education system for many years. She recognized early in the course that I had the aptitude and ability to do this type of work. I required a bit of assistance when it came to tests and Pat was able accommodate me without compromising the course content. She is still a mentor to me and many others.
What would people be surprised to know about being an RHFAC Professional?
Before becoming an RHFAC Professional, I thought I knew what accessibility meant because of my lived experience but the RHFAC training has opened my eyes to so much more. As an RHFAC Professional, I am not only able to rate meaningful accessibility of buildings using RHFAC’s methodology but have also increased my clients’ knowledge and understanding of the accessibility of their buildings. It is not just about making improvements to the built environment but about changing people’s attitudes towards accessibility. This is something that I value most.
Who else do you think could benefit from taking RHFAC Training?
Everyone involved in the built environment should take the RHFAC training course. The RHFAC training will literally open your eyes to what accessibility and meaningful access means for people who are hard of hearing, Deaf, blind, have low vision, are combinations of Deaf and blind, and people who have mobility-related disabilities. Architects, designers, or engineers have the opportunity to learn and incorporate accessibility and universal design principles to their projects.
Why do you think this is important work?
Consider that approximately 25 per cent of the population has a disability. That number climbs to almost 50 per cent when demographics such as hidden disability, age, and temporary disabilities such as a hip/knee replacement are considered. Recently, my family had a small group photo taken at a small dinner gathering, and out of the six people in the photo, five meet the criteria for disability. Making our built environment universally accessible is part of creating an inclusive world where everyone can live to their full potential.
What is your best piece advice for someone starting out in this industry?
If you are planning on working for yourself, working from home is the perfect place to call potential clients from and ask if they have heard about RHFAC and would they like to be rated for accessibility. Don’t be afraid to call/email companies and sell yourself and RHFAC.
Build a better world by helping expand the potential of people with disabilities. Register now for Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification™ training at VCC.