China skyscraper skyline with multiple shabby looking apartment buildings across the horizon

International Factors

A gap exists in many countries legislation relating to the evacuation of people with disability under current disability discrimination, building and workplace safety laws.

When we consider this issue from a global viewpoint, in 2009 there are 36 million people with a disability in the United States of America (U.S.) alone, of which 19.4 million have difficulties walking or climbing stairs[1], which is equivalent to the entire Australian population in 2001.[2] We’re also living in times when life expectancy is increasing, people are residing in higher density locations and in taller buildings.

Worldwide, people with disability have increasingly moved into the mainstream of society[3] [4] and deserve to be afforded the same level of safety as they go about their day to day activities as other occupants of buildings. This includes being able to safely evacuate a building, facility or form of public transportation during an emergency.

The practical and equitable provision of safe evacuation for all building occupants has been a complex issue to resolve, with a general lack of awareness, understanding and a failure to provide a holistic approach from all parties. The issue of emergency egress within workplaces has previously been described as “opening the proverbial can of worms”, where employees with disabilities would rather keep quiet than cause any trouble or risk their own employment opportunities.[5] This is not an acceptable situation and needs more consideration with formulated action.

[1] Disabled World 2014, Latest U.S. Disability Statistics and Facts http://www.disabled-world.com/disability/statistics/census-figures.php, viewed 26 September 2015

[2] Australian Bureau of Statistics 2012b, 1370.0.55.001 – Measures of Australia’s Progress: Summary Indicators, 2012, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/1370.0.55.001~2012~Main%20Features~Population~3, viewed 26 September 2015

[3] United States Fire Administration Federal Emergency Management Agency 1995, Emergency Procedures for Employees with Disabilities in Office Occupancies, p.1, http://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/publications/fa-154.pdf, viewed 26 September 2015

[4] US Fire Administration Federal Emergency Management Agency 2002, FEMA FA 235 Orientation Manual for First Responders on the Evacuation of Disabled People, p.3, http://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/publications/FA-235-508.pdf, viewed 26 September 2015

[5] The Northern Officer Group 1993, Personal Emergency Egress Plans, The Northern Officer Group, Wakefield, UK

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Buildings need exit and emergency signs to identify parts of the accessible means of egress. An Accessible Exit Sign Project Initiative.

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