My name is Charles Watt and I have been a member of the Accessibility Professionals Association for only one year. Unlike the majority of APA members I am not a RAS or an architect, nor do I reside in Texas. I am the ADA Coordinator for the Oklahoma Dept. of Rehabilitation Services, a vocational rehabilitation agency whose purpose is to assist individuals with disabilities to prepare for, find, and maintain employment opportunities. So why did I join the APA and how have I found it helpful to me in my duties as an ADA Coordinator?
The Dept. of Justice regulations implementing the ADA state "A public entity that employs 50 or more persons shall designate at least one employee to coordinate its efforts to comply with and carry out its responsibilities" under the ADA. This designated employee must also conduct an "investigation of any complaint communicated ... alleging its noncompliance" with the ADA. This person is most commonly referred to as an ADA Coordinator but other job titles are also used.
It is fairly easy to see, from the "job description" given by the DOJ, why an ADA Coordinator must be knowledgeable about as many aspects of the ADA as is possible. Certainly, complaints might arise due to the inaccessibility of the built environment but the necessity of being able to proactively alert an organization to existing accessibility barriers is also essential.
The education I have received as a result of attending regional trainings and the APA Annual Conference have been invaluable to me as I try to determine whether or not various elements in a building or building site are in compliance with the ADA Standards. In addition, the opportunity to create a network of knowledgeable peers and to ask questions in the online Member's Forum is also extremely helpful.
The ability to proudly display the APA logo and to receive various specialty designations like ADA Specialist, Transient Lodging Specialist, etc. gives an imprimatur of professionalism and expertise available nowhere else.
I wholeheartedly recommend membership in the Accessibility Professionals Association to all my fellow ADA Coordinators. I've met people who I know can and will help me if I need it and have received the finest training and education on the intricacies of the ADA Standards for Accessible Design which is available.