My name is Lee Wilson and I’m a Disability Access Consultant in Melbourne Australia. I work in the built environment trying to improve the level of accessibility in new buildings, existing buildings and those being refurbished. For over three and half years I have specialized in one area – accessibility. I strive to improve accessibility and make the world (or at least the buildings within it) better, safer and inclusive for all.
I’ve been working in building compliance and accessibility for a number of years and recently completed a degree where I had to research and write a thesis. I chose a topic close to my area of expertise and spent over 12 months researching evacuation considerations for people with disability. My thesis was completed, but I kept writing as I knew there is a need for this book.
I was amazed to find that the needs of a large percentage of people in society are not considered when they need to evacuate a building. In Australia, as well as many countries around the world, this means that we have very accessible buildings and laws that require buildings to be accessible, inclusive and equitable for all in terms of access into the building, and to services within the building. BUT… that’s where it generally ends, there is very little consideration for how to get people with disability OUT during an emergency, particularly those faced with barriers such as fire escape stairs.
That’s where my book comes in. The guidebook is currently available from http://accessibleexitsigns.com/evacuation-guide/ as a free PDF download. It’s filled with great information about this area, presented in an easy to read format, with cartoons, intermingled with quotations collected on the issue that send an important message.
My ultimate goal is to make it FREE or as close as free for all people in all formats. I want to get this message out there in other FREE formats – as an audio MP3 chapter book, large print book, plain text book, and other eBook formats.
I also want to load the text and cartoons onto an accessible website, with links to download the document in differing formats and to listen online. At the end of the day, I just want this information in the public domain.
The guidebook contains 154 pages in total, including useful information with considerations for all building occupants, including people with disability. It also includes templates for personal and group emergency evacuation plans (PEEPs and GEEPS). Though the book discusses the legislative requirements in Australia, the concepts are applicable in any building, in any city or town, in any country of the world. As far as I know, this is the first such guidance book on the topic in Australia.
Please go have a look now, as the book is available as a PDF download for FREE and you can preview the entire document online – http://accessibleexitsigns.com/preview-the-guide-here/, note, this has not been published in hard or soft copy and is available from this website in PDF format only.
As mentioned above, the current version of the guidebook is currently available as a free PDF download and is primarily being used to promote the Accessible Exit Sign Project and features the proposed ‘Accessible Means of Egress Icon’ on each page.
In the future the accessible formats and eBook formats will see a new revised version released, without the emphasis on the Accessible Exit Sign Project and promotion of the Icon.
Whilst undertaking my research to prepare the guidebook it became evident that:
- Building owners, building managers and employers need to take a holistic and pro-active approach in ensuring they have met the needs of all building occupants and have plans in place for evacuation of their building; and
- A significant proportion of people entering these buildings could be exposing themselves to an unacceptable risk every time they enter – unless their needs have been considered and the necessary plans for their safe evacuation are in place.
The primary objectives of the guidebook are to:
- Help workplaces and employees work collaboratively to develop personal emergency evacuation plans.
- Provide guidance to employers and facility managers, so that they may identify opportunities to reduce risk and provide a safer built environment.
- Assist building occupants, including people with disability to identify strategies to:
- Reduce their own risk exposure
- Understand legislative requirements
- Determine who is responsible for their personal safety and evacuation planning
- Equip them with the knowledge and resources to ask the right questions about their own safety
- Work with their employers to develop an individual personal emergency evacuation plan