Elderly couple both in wheelchairs at tourist city Skytree observation tower in Tokyo, looking out of Tokyo city

Occupant Expectations and Accessible Exit Signage

Everyone deserves the right to a safe working environment or safe public space. A safe accessible signage strategy should form part of any emergency egress solution for a building. It has been evident over the years that the needs of all people, including those with a disability are not being met.

It must be acknowledged that following the attack on the World Trade Centre in 2001 there have been some improvements made in the U.S., but most countries are far behind these actions:

  • A survey undertaken in 2001 in the U.S. discovered that 50% of people with disabilities said they had no plans made to safely evacuate their workplaces and were far more anxious about their personal safety.[1]
  • A survey commissioned by the National Organization on Disabilities in Washington DC in the U.S. during 2004 found that 68% of respondents had indicated that plans were now in place to safely evacuate employees with disabilities, compared to only 45% in a similar survey conducted in 2001.[2]
  • A survey of companies showed that 50% of companies admitted that their evacuation plans did not account for people with disabilities.[3]
  • A survey undertaken by the British Research Establishment found that all respondents believed that the building owner, employer or facilities management team were responsibility for the evacuation of people with disabilities.[4]
  • There are still recent accounts in the press of people being left behind in areas of a burning building whilst other occupants safely evacuate.[5] [6]

[1] Suttell, R 2003, ‘Proactive Evacuation Assistance’, Buildings. Apr 2003, Vol. 97 Issue 4, pp.32-33

[2] Mandelblit, B 2004, Planning Evacuation for the Disabled’, Security: Solutions for Enterprise Security Leaders, Apr2004, Vol. 41 Issue 4, pp.43-44

[3] Security Director’s Report 2005, New Obligation for Evacuating Disabled Breeds Opportunity, Security Director’s Report, Nov 2005, Vol. 5 Issue 11, pp.5-6

[4] Communities and Local Government 2008, BD 2441: The adequacy of refuges, escape stairs and management procedures, Department for Communities and Local Government, London, pp. 7-9, 12, 14-15, 21-22

[5] CBC News Nova Scotia 2013, Mom angry disabled daughter left behind in fire drills, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/story/2013/01/16/ns-fire-evacuation-weilgart.html, viewed 25 August 2015

[6] CBS Chicago 2012, Parents Of Disabled Child Worried About School’s Evacuation Plan, http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2012/04/11/parents-of-disabled-child-worried-schools-evacuation-plan/, viewed 25 August 2015

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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