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Disability Discrimination Act inspections of many multi storey buildings.

On my many access audit visits up and down the country (UK) I have undertaken a great deal of Disability Discrimination Act inspections of many multi storey buildings. As a disabled person and a DDA auditor I am greatly concerned about the recommendations for areas of safe refuge within multi storey buildings. Because lifts will often be unusable or fail, the DDA states that such building should have areas of safe refuge for those unable to manage stairs in the event of an evacuation. This surely is of course assuming the emergency is a fire and those in the safe refuge area will ‘assumable’ be protected and rescued relatively quickly by the fire department if the management of the building fails to.

The problem is, we all tend to think of the cause of emergency evacuation as a fire and the chances are you do too. However, evacuation procedures for people with disabilities needs to move with the times, its a sad fact that we now live in a violent and unpredictable society and the cause for the evacuation may well be an explosion or bomb scare!

While there is no simple solution to the problem there are considerations in building design that could help, fire protected evacuation lifts, evacuation chairs on all levels and a greater consideration of providing more facilities on the ground and lower levels. Yes these too have there problems, like I said ‘there is no simple solution’ but a solution will not be found until the problem is recognised and addressed.

I cant help but feel that the fault often lies with designers. They love to create big fancy buildings that stand out from the crowd with unusual features, simply so the building gets noticed and the designer can then stand back and say ‘I designed that’ they appear more concerned and concentrated with getting noticed than the actual practicalities of minor things such as evacuation. Throwing in a few extra staircases does not help a wheelchair user on the tenth floor!

The reason for these articles are to enable people to read them and a voice to be heard. Maybe just maybe somebody with the power to make changes will recognise there is a problem and seek a solution. On the other hand you the reader may well be disabled or know somebody with a disability and now be concerned. My advice to you is when you approach a building don’t think how or can I get in it, think how do I get out!

Access All Areas www.access-auditing.com





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