All posts by Lee Wilson, Access Consultant, Universal Design Consultant

Lee Wilson, MAIPM C.Build E MCABE PEng(UK) MSPE MWOBO, is an accessibility and universal design specialist with an extensive background in access for people with disabilities, building compliance and project management. Lee is an Accredited Member of the Association of Consultants in Access Australia (ACAA) and holds memberships with multiple Australian and International organisations. In early 2018 he was appointed as a Subject Matter Expert in Disability Access by the Australian Building Codes Board. Additionally, he has several undergrad and post-grad qualifications in building surveying, risk, construction management, project management and performance-based building and fire codes.

The Accessible Exit Sign Project Media Pack

We are pleased to advise that we now have a Dropbox folder for the project. The folder contains 5 separate folders:

  • ImagesThe Accessible Exit Sign Project Media Pack Dropbox Folders
  • Presentations
  • Press
  • Publications
  • Videos

This information can be used by media, interested parties, supporters, advocates, industry or anyone else interested in the project to spread awareness.

To request access to the folder please send us a message.

Stop Press

 

Braille Sign Supplies announced as an Australian Supplier of Accessible Exit Signs

Media Release: New Partner – Braille Sign Supplies

Our New Licensed Partner

We would like to announce that Braille Sign Supplies in Australia is now a licensed partner of the Accessible Exit Sign Project.

To get a PDF copy of this Media Release, dated 12 January 2015 click the link below

Media Release 12 January 2015 Licensed Partner – Braille Sign Supplies

The contact details for Braille Sign Supplies are provided below:

Braille Sign Supplies Logo

Braille Sign Supplies stocks a large range of fully compliant Braille Signs and also proudly manufactures custom Braille / Tactile signs to assist people who are vision impaired.

Using quality materials and superior craftsmanship, they offer fast delivery Australia-wide with a large range of Stock Braille Signs to choose from in their online store. They also offer their clients the opportunity to stand out from the crowd with Custom Braille Signs made to order, with or without the use of the ‘Accessible Means of Egress Icon’.

All signs provided come complete and ready for easy self-installation. Braille Sign Supplies signs comply with Australian Standards, the Building Code of Australia, and Wayfinding Guidelines, and feature perfectly rounded beads to create a smooth and user-friendly raised tactile Braille text.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Braille Sign Supplies for their support of the Project and commitment to improving the built environment for people with disability in the form of supplying accessible exit signs.

Licensed Partners

We encourage signage companies around the world to become licensed partners of the Accessible Exit Sign Project. By doing so you will not only present as an organisation that considers corporate social responsibility a priority, but you’ll also have a unique product in the market place. You can then use the Icon on our designs, or you can design your own signs to suit your needs or local legislative requirements. We also encourage all those involved in public infrastructure projects to consider the use of the ‘Accessible Means of Egress Icon’ within your own projects as we can also work on project specific license agreements.

Please contact us at info@egressgroup.com.au, we’d love to add you to our list of licensed partners.

Exciting Media Release: New Licensed Partner – Safety Sign Sales Limited, Christchurch New Zealand

Our New Licensed Partner

We would like to announce that Safety Sign Sales Limited in New Zealand is now a licensed partner of the Accessible Exit Sign Project.

Safety Signs Limited Wheelchair Disabled Accessible Exit Signs

To get a full PDF copy of this Media Release, dated 5 January 2015 click the link below

Media Release 5 January 2015 Licensed Partner – Safety Sign Sales Limited.

The contact details for Safety Sign Sales Limited are provided below:

Safety Sign Sales Limited is New Zealand’s leading supplier of Safety Signs to schools, industry, small and large businesses.

Safety Sign Sales has been creating and distributing signs both to the retail sector and the wholesale sector for over 20 years. They also proudly support a network of local Christchurch businesses to create their extensive range of signs.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Safety Sign Sales Limited for their support of the Project and commitment to improving the built environment for people with disability in the form of supplying accessible exit signs.

Licensed Partners

We encourage signage companies around the world to become licensed partners of the Accessible Exit Sign Project. By doing so you will not only present as an organisation that considers corporate social responsibility a priority, but you’ll also have a unique product in the market place. You can then use the Icon on our designs, or you can design your own signs to suit your needs or local legislative requirements. We also encourage all those involved in public infrastructure projects to consider the use of the ‘Accessible Means of Egress Icon’ within your own projects as we can also work on project specific license agreements.

Please contact us at info@egressgroup.com.au, we’d love to add you to our list of licensed partners.

Kickstarter Project – Publish Evacuation guidebook to FREE accessible formats and accessible website

Publish this important guidebook to FREE accessible, audio and eBook formats, as well as converting the text to an accessible website.

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 two and half years I have specialized in one area – accessibility.

Check me out on LinkedIn or at my website http://leewilson.com.au/. 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 have several qualifications in building surveying, risk management, construction management and project management.

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 https://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.

I want 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. Did I mention I want to give this away for FREE, or as close as I can to free on eBook hosting websites.

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. This project also includes all associated costs to develop, prepare, host and maintain the website, “disabilityevacuation.com” for the years to come, this is my personal commitment. At the end of the day, I just want this information in the public domain.

Evacuation  Guidebook, Evacuation of People with Disability and Emergent Limitations, by Lee WilsonThe 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.

Interested in this project? 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 – https://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.

This project 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:

  1. Help workplaces and employees work collaboratively to develop personal emergency evacuation plans.
  2. Provide guidance to employers and facility managers, so that they may identify opportunities to reduce risk and provide a safer built environment.
  3. 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

The PDF initial free version (version 1) has been downloaded several hundred times already, any problems or corrections have been made during this time.

I now have a team of professionals, each an expert in their own field waiting to move to the next stage of this project (as discussed above), which will see a new version (Version 2) released, without promotion of the ‘Accessible Exit Sign Project’ and ‘Accessible Means of Egress Icon’, and a more international flavor.

The only limitation in advancing this project has been funding. Thank you

 

Evacuation Considerations for People with Disability (or Opening the Proverbial Can of Worms)

The ‘Gap’ in Legislation

A gap exists in most countries legislative framework relating to the evacuation of people with disability under current disability discrimination, building and workplace safety laws. The gap exposes those members of the community with disability, particularly those with sensory or mobility disabilities to the risk of being delayed in their ability to evacuate a building or being entrapped within a building that has been evacuated. The situation exists where buildings are increasing being built or upgraded to be more accessible – without considering how to get all occupants out in an emergency.

Person with Hearing Impairment looking at Emergency Message

Typical Building Occupant Statistics

In 2009 the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that there were four million Australians or 18.5% of the population with a disability. The figures are comparative to other westernized countries. In comparison and to consider the issue from a global viewpoint, there are 36 million people with a disability in the United States alone, of which 19.4 million have difficulties walking or climbing stairs, which is equivalent to the entire Australian population in 2001. The UN has also released data that states that 15% of the world’s population has a disability and this equates to over 1 billion people.

The following statistics released by the Australian Network on Disability provides an insight into the statistics of Australian workplaces:

  • 1 in 3 people have a disability or are likely to be close to someone with a disability.
  • 1 million Australians of working age (15 to 64 years) have a disability.
  • 4 million Australians (or 15% of the population) have a physical disability.
  • 1 in 6 Australians are affected by hearing loss.
  • There are approximately 30,000 Deaf Auslan (Australian Sign Language) users with total hearing loss.
  • Vision Australia estimates there are currently 357,000 people in Australia who are blind or have low vision.
  • Over 700,000 Australians have an intellectual impairment.
  • 10% of the population has dyslexia.
  • More than 90,000 people have a mental health disorder.
  • Almost 90 per cent of disabilities are not visible.

Another important consideration will be the age demographics of society in future years. It has been forecast that the proportion of the Australian population over 65 will increase from 14% in 2011 to 25% in 2100  which potentially will see an increase in the number of persons with a disability. This is comparative to international population projections prepared by the United Nations which predict the number of people over 65 is set to double within just 25 years.

Elderly Man using a walking frame opening an exit doorThe number of people aged 85 years and over in Australia is projected to increase rapidly, going from 344,000 in 2007 to 1.7 million in 2056. Given these recent trends, it is also fair to assume that in the future people will be working longer.  A recent analysis of 43 countries by researchers from Harvard University found that between 1965 and 2005 the average legal retirement age increased by less than six months, but in contrast life expectancy increased by nine years, with many European countries now linking the legal retirement age to life expectancy data. Similarly, the Australian Government as recently as May 2014 announced that people will have to remain working until they are 70 years old before they are eligible for the age pension.

The Risk

Concept of risk in business with businesswoman on the ropeThis equates to a significant percentage of people who may have little consideration for their safe evacuation from a commercial building. Consideration of the needs of all occupants is especially important for those facing a vertical egress path (i.e. via a stairway).

People with disability have increasingly moved into the mainstream of society and deserve to be afforded the same level of safety as they go about their day to day activities as other occupants of buildings. After all, there are statutory obligations within many countries, including Australia that require employers, building or facility management, building contractors and building designers to contribute to a workplace that is “without risks to the health and safety of any person”.

The Solution

The practical and equitable provision of safe egress 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 discussing emergency egress within workplaces has previously been described by U.K. based Northern Officer Group in 1993 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. This is not an acceptable situation and needs more consideration.

More consideration needs to be made to the provision of equitable egress provisions in buildings with an accessible means of egress and appropriate exit signage. Workplaces need to promote an environment where discussions on an individuals needs for evacuation can be raised without fear of recourse and confidentiality.

The Evacuation Guidebook – Evacuation of People with Disability & Emergent Limitations: Considerations for Safer Buildings & Efficient Evacuations

I’d encourage every one to read the guidebook below from which this article has been adapted. The guidebook will help all readers understand the issues, the risks, and identify strategies to provide a safe building for ALL occupants. Though the book discusses the Australian legislation, the concepts are applicable where ever you call home.

Evacuation of People with Disability and Emergent Limitations, by Lee WilsonBy Lee Wilson, author of the evacuation guidebook titled “Evacuation of People with Disability & Emergent Limitations: Considerations for Safer Buildings & Efficient Evacuations”.