31/03/2013

Will Household Goods Ever be Disabled Friendly

In these days of access improvements in the built environment such as access to shops, services and facilities receiving a great deal of attention and many making major changes to meet the needs of the disabled, why are product manufacturers allowed to continue making household goods like microwaves, cookers etc etc with no consideration for the disabled. 

One example is the electronic panels of just about all modern electrical items such as microwaves, cookers, dishwashers etc, the blind don’t stand a chance with these touch sensitive switches that are completely flat and have no raised or tactile sections at all, yes they bleep, the manufacturing world is obsessed with making things bleep but that’s no good if you don’t know what switch/button you are pressing! 

Dishwashers are so un-wheelchair friendly, if you have ever tried to get a wheelchair close enough to fill or empty the dam things you will know what I mean, I have a Neff but as far as accessibility is concerned is more like Naff!. 

So what can we do? Well, in these days of every manufacturer having a website and email address its so quick and easy just to google the company, find their website and then their “contact us” page, finding Neff took me all of 20 seconds and just 2 minutes to fill in my findings and the issues I have with their product. Chances are they don’t even know we have issues with their inaccessible designs but if enough of us spend a few minutes telling them they may well just consider the needs of the disabled in future designs. 

Go do it, complain and make a difference!

16/03/2013

Wheelchair Egress More Important Than Access

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.

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. 

Remember, getting out of a building is far more important than getting into it!