“What is a (or what’s the difference between a) qualified access consultant and an ACAA accredited member?” is a frequently asked question of many in the access industry.
Whilst Commonwealth legislation requires all public buildings and services to be accessible, the access industry remains a niche area, with many individuals and organisations lacking a full understanding of what an access consultant actually does.
Amongst other reasons, part of the mystery surrounding the profession can be attributed to the historical lack of tertiary study options available. As an emerging profession, and without a publically known Bachelor’s degree and clear-cut career pathway, it simply does not appear on many people’s radar. However, through the Access Institute, a tertiary education pathway has been made available to anybody wishing to practice as an access consultant.
Since 2009, Access Institute has been the only provider of the Certificate IV in Access Consulting and the Diploma of Access Consulting. This is a highly regarded course amongst graduates and employers’s alike as it has been developed and delivered by industry professionals and qualified trainers, with many years of access experience. This experience has been gained from both work as practitioners and also involvement in leadership roles of industry associations and organisations.
A Qualified Access Consultant
Initially, in order to be deemed a qualified access consultant, a practitioner must have completed the Certificate IV or Diploma in Access Consulting. This course provides the essential foundational knowledge of Australian access legislation, codes and regulation, but also the wide ranging ‘function-and-use’ issues that many individuals with access challenges face.
An Accredited Access Consultant
The Certificate IV in Access Consulting is now the minimum qualification required to be eligible to apply for accreditation with the Association of Consultants in Access Australia (ACAA), the peak national body for access consultants.
In addition, to achieve accreditation with ACAA, an access consultant must work in the field for a minimum of two years, demonstrating their ability to provide appropriate advice over a range of different projects. Further to that, the individual must be nominated by an existing accredited ACAA member, and go through a thorough review process in order to confirm the quality of their work. They must also successfully complete an on line exam.
Before the introduction of the Certificate IV or Diploma in Access Consulting, if an individual wanted to become an accredited member of ACAA, there was no minimum benchmark and members were ‘grandfathered” into accredited membership status. Therefore, there are some accredited members of ACAA who do not hold any access-specific qualification.
Currently in Australia, there is no legal requirement for an access consultant to be accredited by ACAA before they begin practising. It’s for this very reason that it’s important to choose a consultant who is both qualified and accredited by the national body, to ensure they operate at an appropriate standard.
A key role of ACAA is to support and the professional development of all of its members. Without a minimum nationally recognised access qualification and accreditation, there’s no way to ensure that an appropriately skilled and experienced access consultant has been chosen for your project.
It is important to ask your access consultant for their certificate of qualification i.e. Certificate IV or Diploma of Access Consulting and their certificate of accredited membership with ACAA, before you engage them for your project.