I can almost guarantee that 95% of wheelchair users that enter into a multi-storey building will be thinking ahead and be concerned if they will be able to access the upper floors via lift, is the lift wide enough and will there be disabled toilets. These are quite natural concerns, I know because I’ve been there and got the T-shirt.
What I find astonishing and to be honest quite frightening is that I can almost guarantee that the same amount of 95% of wheelchair users will not be considering how they will get out of the said multi-storey building in the event of fire or other emergency! What we all tend to forget is that the second that the fire alarm is activated, the standard passenger lift will automatically lower to the ground floor, the doors will open and the lift will then become inoperable. The wheelchair user will then be stranded on the upper floor, potentially in a burning building.
There are of course provisions that the buildings manager needs or rather should be addressing such as safe refuges for wheelchair users on all upper floors along with a Personal Evacuation Plan “that includes” wheelchair users and disabled people along with installing evacuation chairs and of course trained staff that know how to use them.
One solution to this major problem is the installation of a wheelchair platform lift, these come in many shapes and sizes with designs able to meet the needs of all buildings including through the floor lifts for domestic use. The beauty of these type of lifts is that they can in an emergency have an individual power supply, in the same way that a stairlift has a battery backup so that the user can get up and down the stairs in the event of a power cut. Of course we all know that these type of wheelchair platform lifts are put into buildings primarily to give access to wheelchair users but the benefits of providing safe evacuation far outstrip any access benefits.
Information gathers here was kindly supplied by Access All Areas, a disability access audit company. The highlighted links in this article are here to provide you information and a source to find further details of all types of home and building wheelchair, chair and stair lifts but the main and sole purpose of this article is for you, the disabled person to remember that egress from within a building is far far more important than access into it. In my view if disabled people can’t safely get out of a building or be safely housed until the emergency services arrive, then they should not be going into the building in the first place.