On my many access audit visits up and down the country (UK) I have undertaken DDA audits in many multi storey buildings. As a disabled person and a DDA auditor (Disability Discrimination Act) I am greatly concerned about the DDA recommendations of areas of safe refuge within multi storey buildings.
The DDA states that such building should have areas of safe refuge for those unable to manage the stairs in the event of an evacuation. OK Fine so far. This surely is assuming the emergency is a fire and those in the safe refuge area will ‘assumable’ be rescued relatively quickly by the fire department if management does not/can not!
I personally do not have a problem with this assuming the safe refuge area has been checked thoroughly, clearly signed etc but and the big but is would you be happy to remain in an area of safe refuge in a large building if the emergency was say a ‘Bomb Scare’? Would it not be better that the DDA regulation is to have Evac chairs in all multi storey buildings with staff equipped to use them? Food for thought wouldn't you say?
As a wheelchair user I fully agree that we should be able to have access to most reasonable public buildings, however as an access auditor I feel if we cant get out of the building safely, we should not be going in it, at least not until those responsible have addressed all issues including egress.
Finally my advice to fellow disabled people is: When entering a building think about how you will get out in an emergency as well as how you will get in. www.access-auditing.com
This is an interesting topic and to be honest one that I am writing on at the minute. I too have done access audits and found the provisions for egress lacking in effectiveness.
As a Surveyor and Project Manager I have been put under pressure to find solutions cheaply only finding that there is still no real answer short of cladding a building with a theme park style ramp. I will be looking into the issues and will keep an eye out on here for any comments.