Safety and Security for all

Safety and Security are two issues which are a constant contradiction.

In many corporate, commercial, and even industrial environments in our present society, it is considered as a special needs issue to accommodate disabled people as part of the organisations.

Their safety and security is one of the reasons why employers resist taking disabled people on, or why the developers of buildings feel it is going to undermine the integrity of their business planning by having additional passengers on board. Do all able-bodied people pull their weight? Each group has their strengths and weaknesses. The skills and attitude of each person should be the issue. In the interests of safety, the fireman always wants the fire not to spread to other buildings, and the occupiers of a building to be able to escape the fire or other emergency; whereas the security department wants to ensure that there is the minimum number of exits by which people or goods could escape during non-emergency periods. Fire doors are installed to comply with legislation, but in the main are kept locked, to reduce ’shrinkage’. There are elaborate plans as to delegating the unlocking to ‘safety’ officers, but often the same safety officer has not ensured (on a daily basis) that no clutter or cleaning equipment is stored in front of these escape routes.

In doing an appraisement of accessibility, it is always noticeable how much clutter is around, as this is the bane of vision impaired people and wheelchair users. Of course if these disabled people were also part of the staff in this type of environment, they would easily become the unwitting cause of the logjam, when it could have been avoided by doing the Safety bit properly in the first place. Another area of interest is the vertical circulation in buildings. For various reasons escalators are very popular. In the commercial sector it is perfectly obvious that it really only suits some people and it is recognised that it is essential that all floors also be served by lifts. It is disappointing that the lift industry itself has not realised that it cannot continue providing products which do not suit the whole range of people who might use them; voice announcements as well as lit numbers, are absolutely essential.

I am of average height, but often get stuck behind taller people, or even standing with my back to the door, so it is good for everybody, except hearing impaired people, not just vision impaired people. There are actually whole lists of other safety issues like the emergency button lighting up if it has functioned properly, for hearing impaired people which are not customarily installed.

What’s a bank without a counter (not a money counter; a reception counter)? Some of the banks have decided to have some sit-down counters, but most still have counters where the teller and the client both stand. Or the teller sits on a high chair. This is very limiting, and exclusive, and should be changed. It leads to a patronising approach to disabled people, and is contrary to our Integrated National Disability Strategy.

The mantraps or revolving doors at entrances to banks are on the whole very unsatisfactory. The people in this industry also need a wake-up call. A completely different system could be used, and hopefully the present products will not be tolerated by the banking sector any longer.

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