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Ileana Rodriguez named Top 25 News Makers in infrastructure sector

US Paralympic swimmer, architect and accessibility expert recognised by prestigious construction magazine Engineering News-Record 28 Jan 2021
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Ileana Rodríguez on stage giving a speech
Paralympian Ileana Rodríguez is an architect and accessibility expert
ⒸI Design Access LLC
By IPC and ENR Magazine

Paralympian and architect Ileana Rodriguez has been recognised for her work as one of the Top 25 News Makers by American weekly magazine Engineering News-Record (ENR). 

ENR recognises construction industry leaders since 1964 who “tackle the most difficult challenges and make our world a better place.” 

Rodriguez posted the following message on Instagram after the announcement: 

"I am honoured to share that I have been selected among the Top 25 News Makers in 2020 by Engineering News-Record, widely regarded as one of the construction industry's most authoritative publications. I appreciate this opportunity to continue promoting inclusive design.  

"I would like to give a special thanks to the International Paralympic Committee, NPC Kazakhstan, Corgan, HKS, Inc., US Olympic Training Center, Arup, and many others for all the opportunities in which ‘I Design Access’ have been providing support to create more accessible environments. I would also like to express my gratitude to Engineering News-Record and @MarkShaw for such recognition." 

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female Para swimmer Ileana Rodriguez takes a breath during a breaststroke
Ileana Rodriguez competed for USA at London 2012 Ⓒ Getty Images

Rodriguez, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture, has served as accessibility specialist for several projects around the world, including the construction of both the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum and the Kazakhstan Paralympic Training Facility. 

As the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) main accessibility consultant, she has contributed to the creation of the organisation’s accessibility guide and the inclusive design of facilities at various Olympic/Paralympic and Pan Am/Parapan American Games. 

Rodriguez, who founded the Houston-based firm I Design Access LLC three years ago, told ENR that she believes in providing full access for people with disabilities at public places “not as an afterthought, but as an intrinsic part of the built environment.”  

“The reality is that most environments are not friendly to people with disabilities. They (many architects) need to learn to see it as an opportunity to make a better design, rather than a back-end code challenge that costs more to implement.” 

Born in Cuba, Rodriguez and her family left for the United States when she was a teenager in the hope of finding better treatment for a malformation of the spine which left her paralysed. 

After becoming a US citizen, Rodriguez competed in swimming for Team USA at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, reaching the final in the women’s 100m breaststroke SB5. 

This year, she will be leading the Refugee Paralympic Team (RPT) at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. 

More information about her work is available on I Design Access LLC’s website.