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IDPP Alumnus uses Architecture for Advocacy, Empowerment

IDPP Alumnus Don de Vera poses with a team from IDPP partner APCD (photo)IDPP alumnus Mr. Don de Vera is making his voice heard as one of Manila’s leading experts in accessible building design and architecture. As a professor of architecture and design at the Mapua Institute of Technology – Laguna, his alma mater in the Philippines, Mr. de Vera incorporates his expertise in architecture with his passion for disability rights. He also serves as a member of the Committee on Accessibility of the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP), a role that has allowed him to lead participatory trainings and seminars on creating barrier-free environments at universities and private and public sector organizations in the metropolitan Manila area.

Mr. de Vera firmly believes in the power of education as a tool to promote disability rights and create inclusive physical environments. “I believe that, as architects seeking to achieve change, we must begin by educating young designers and architects on creating barrier-free built environments,” Mr. de Vera said in an email sent to the IDPP earlier this month. As a professor of architecture and disability advocate, Mr. de Vera blends traditional concepts and methodologies in architectural design with key accessible design concepts and laws, such as Philippines’ building accessibility law (BP344), into his curriculum.

In his role on the Committee on Accessibility of the United Architects of the Philippines, Mr. de Vera has traveled to universities and organizations around Manila to deliver expert lectures and facilitate hands-on training seminars on accessibility law and accessibility auditing. In 2014, Mr. de Vera conducted trainings at five universities; two private sector organizations; and two public sector organizations. A highlight of Mr. de Vera’s 2014 activities occurred on 17 December, when he and other high-level members of the United Architects of the Philippines met with Mr. Jejomar Binay, Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines, to discuss the foundation of the Housing Technology Resource and Exhibit Center (HTREX).

Mr. de Vera has continued to build on his 2014 success in the new year after being invited to join the Philippines’ live captioning team for the 3rd United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held from 14-18 March 2015 in Sendai, Japan. Mr. de Vera is honored to join this live captioning team that, for the first time in any Asian country’s history, is entirely represented by persons with disabilities. In preparation for the conference, he and others from the UAP Committee on Accessibility took part in a live captioning training co-organized by IDPP outreach partner the Asia-Pacific Development Centre on Disability (APCD); the Makati Social Welfare Department; and the UAP Committee on Accessibility on 5-8 January 2015.

As Mr. de Vera continues to make strides in teaching others about accessible building design, he is reminded of the lessons in advocacy and capacity building he learned during his time at IDPP as part of the first graduating cohort of the master’s in Comparative and International Disability Policy at American University’s School of International Service: “I believe that as an architect and as graduate of IDPP, it is our task to share the knowledge that we gain.” Mr. de Vera looks forward to continuing to promote disability rights and barrier-free building design in the years to come.

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