A Message from former President of DesignABLE Environments Bob Topping, Architect:
“After 35 wonderful years with DesignABLE Environments, I am pleased to announce my retirement from the business. It has been an honour and a pleasure to have worked with so many great clients and colleagues. Their combined commitment to accessibility and universal design has made a huge difference to the lives of people of all abilities. A huge thank you to everyone for the support you have given me over the years.”
The important work of DesignABLE Environments will now continue under the leadership of Thea Kurdi, who is taking over as president of the company. Her 20 years of experience with DesignABLE Environments and her unwavering commitment to accessibility will ensure that DE maintains its position as a global leader in universal design for many years to come.
Thea Kurdi’s Extensive Experience
Thea has more than 20 years of experience specializing in barrier-free or accessible and universal design for architectural projects of varying size and complexity. From the Human Rights Code, to evidence-based design and increased marketability, Thea believes accessibility is fundamental to successful design. She has focused her entire career on helping clients create usable accessibility and understand how universal design is better design for everyone.
Thea is a Certified Professional in Accessible Built Environments (CPABE) Level 2 certified member of the International Association of Accessible Professionals (IAAP) and is an affiliate member of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC). Thea presented “Let’s design for accessibility” at TEDxMississauga. She was also the host of the award-winning Accessibility Edge radio show and a member of the RAIC’s Age Friendly Housing Task Force. She is currently a regular contributor on to media covering built environment issues has a monthly segment on AMI’s NOW with Dave Brown show where she discusses residential and commercial space design, legislation and resources to help the audience understand the issues and find reliable resources.
Thea is an enthusiastic educator at heart. Whether with clients or at local and international conferences she focuses on ensuring people have the information they need to make decisions and innovative design. In her time teaching in the day school program at Sheridan College she taught a range of courses including AutoCAD, REVIT, Architectural History, Sustainable Design and Universal Design. She is invited as a frequent guest speaker to lectures for design students, including at Waterloo School of Architecture, Ryerson University School of Architecture and George Brown College of Interior Design. Thea was also the project lead hired by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) to help create the innovative Introduction to Successful Accessible Design course that is now offered as both part of the continuing education for professionals and as a credit course for those studying through the RAIC syllabus program.
Thea makes a point of getting out to speak at conferences, educating professionals on the nuts and bolts of built environment inclusion. including the Canadian Home Builders Association’s conference in 2010, at IIDEX 2016, 2017 and 2018, but also at the Royal Architectural Institute of Architects 2018 conference and the 2019 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Student Conference as well as a panelist for both the IDEX 2016 Inclusive Playspaces and the National Accessibility Summit.
Thea also looks for opportunities to presented at network at workshops and conferences around the world. She has been to the 2018 Universal Design Conferences in both Auckland, New Zealand and Brisbane, Australia, also the 6th Universal Design Conference in Seoul, Korea, and the TRANSED 2012 in India.
Thea has undertaken numerous facility accessibility audits, including the development of audit protocols and checklists, as well as the preparation of audit reports. She is highly proficient with drawing and illustration software including AutoCAD, VIZ, Photoshop, Illustrator, and Dreamweaver. She has developed numerous educational materials and resource information on accessibility for students and the design community at large.
Champion for Human Rights, Inclusion and Social Justice
Thea has focused her career on helping clients understand what usable accessibility includes and how universal design is better design for everyone, all to achieve the requirements of our Human Rights codes. She also works to help improve legislation and post secondary design education to facilitate the culture change that is required to get to the goals of the Accessible Canada Act and similar legislation elsewhere.
As a person who identifies with several invisible disabilities including hearing and vision loss as well as a dyslexic, accessibility is personal, not just a professional calling. Although not fluent, in an effort to connect better with the d/Deaf, deafened, and hard of hearing communities, Thea started studying American Sign Language (ASL) in 2003. She also volunteers a great deal of time to her two passion projects – accessible housing and playgrounds, including appearing on many CBC morning show’s across Canada as well as helping the Accessible Housing Network, the Older Women’s Network of Ontario and speaking at many political events.