Stamina and fortitude led Patricia to getting the role she wanted
This month Patricia Flores is celebrating her 20-year anniversary as an Access Consultant. This is an incredible milestone, especially when you consider 56% of employees have been in their current job for less than 5 years (ABS Job mobility February 2023).
We decided to interview Patricia to find out the reasons why she is still enthusiastic about Access Consulting.
Patricia, how did you become an Access Consultant?
“I wanted to be an access consultant for a long time. After completing my Diploma in Architectural Technology and at the same time working in aged care, doing my 4th year placement as an Occupational Therapist, I wanted to put my skills together and I discovered there was such a thing as an access consultant!
After graduation, I secured a role with the Department of Housing as an Occupational Therapist. From there I worked at Sunshine Hospital in Northwestern Mental Health, on the community treatment team, working with older adults with mental illness.
I really wanted to know more about auditing aged care (and similar) facilities as there was such a need to have a mechanism to show the government and hospitals what was lacking and how to make the necessary improvements. And this is how I came to join Blythe-Sanderson Group, initially as a project manager and soon after as an access consultant. And that’s how I ended up where I wanted to be. It’s been an incredibly interesting journey!
At Blythe-Sanderson I became an experienced access consultant and began the journey to achieving their vision to remove barriers to participation and prevent disability discrimination. In 2012 Architecture & Access Australia was formed with the amalgamation of Davids Langdon Access Consulting (formerly Blythe-Sanderson Group) and Architecture & Access we began to realise our impact to be able to create environments to transform lives.”
What has kept you at Architecture & Access so long?
“You must have a level of passion for what you are doing. What we do at Architecture & Access is helping to make the world a better place for everybody. This is very rewarding.
Access consulting offers such a variety of projects to work on, it can be challenging, but we make a difference through collaboration with the designer and the end user to realise the best accessibility outcomes for all.
I have had many opportunities at Architecture & Access including, opening, leading and growing the Brisbane office.
Over the years I have formed many friendships within Architecture & Access and being in the leadership team I am committed to the success of the company.”
In 2023, there is a demand for access consulting services. Why is this the case and how has your role changed in the 20 years?
“Legislation and recognition as a valued industry, has driven the demand. When I came on board in 2002, there was limited legislation, and many people did not understand the value of an access consultant and in general what we did or how we could provide the many benefits to our client’s projects.
As access consultants we are members of ACAA (Association of Access Consult in Australia), that is a national membership-based professional association for people working to achieve accessibility of the built environment for all. It is the peak national body for access consultancy in Australia and a major partner in advancing equity of built environmental accessibility for people with a disability. The Association that provides access consultants with a framework for training, accreditation, promotion, recognition and continuing professional development.
The establishment of this peak body, the creation Access Consulting qualifications, as well as the introduction in 2010 of the Disability Access to Premises Standard (DAPS) has really moved things forward.
All governments including Local Councils now recognise that accessibility is at the forefront when projects are planned, designed, and constructed and not an afterthought. They understand the vital role played by Access Consultants.’’
Along with being a senior access consultant and the manager of Architecture & Access’ Queensland office, you’re a specialist Transport Advisor for access. Can you explain your expertise further?
“This role came about in 2018 through the NGR (New Generation Rollingstock) project. A Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) complaint was made to the State in regard to the trains Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport (DSAPT) compliance. I was engaged to investigate how to address the complaint and implement change to achieve the best possible accessibility outcomes for the community.
An accessibility advisor to the government is different to an access consultant who works with the contractor to design and construct. The advisor’s role is to oversee the whole of the project. We work very closely with all stakeholders including people with lived experience.
We provide technical advice to the State which may include preparing documentation for procurement, writing accessibility guidelines, providing disability legislation training, and attending accessibility reference group workshops. We conduct peer reviews of contractor consultants reports and provide a third-party opinion.
What significant projects have you worked on where your service has made a fundamental contribution to the quality of lives of people living with a disability?
“Public transport is so important for many people in the community as it provides a mechanism to participate and access life independently.
The transport projects I have been involved in have had a major impact. Recently I have been involved in mock ups and functional trials of actual rolling stock, and actively involved early in the project with people with lived experienced using these spaces, to inform the design.
Understanding the end users feedback and incorporating this into the design, in my opinion, has produced the best user and project outcomes and has been most rewarding.
I can’t wait to see the new trains that are going to be built for Brisbane Olympics 2032, they will be the most accessible trains in Australia.”
What are your plans for Queensland and Architecture & Access over the next five years?
“I would like to continue to grow the Queensland business. We have specific goals to achieve, including increasing the size of our Queensland portfolio and building our client base in Northern Territory.
We have incredible people at Architecture & Access, and I would like to help develop future leaders. At this point we have no limits on ourselves and where we may end up.
In preparing for this interview, I realise that it has been a crazy, wonderful ride. The journey so far has been a good one and mostly in an upward direction. I don’t think there’s been many down times. It’s an exciting time to be at Architecture & Access.”