international law

Good Design Practice: ‘Fire Safety for All’ & EICT Accessibility

[ EICT’s = Electronic, Information & Communication Technologies ]

2014-10-13:  Electronic, Information and Communication Technologies have rapidly become an essential feature of the Built, Social and Economic Environments; they are everywhere.  During a fire incident, however, these e-Technologies serve a function which is critical for the safety of all building users and firefighters, property protection, minimizing environmental damage, and sustainability.  They must, therefore, have a user interface which is Accessible for All … from both ends.

This is a requirement of International Law … and an unambiguous National Requirement (expressed in the form of law and/or mandatory administrative provisions) in those jurisdictions which are States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

There is no European Standard (EN) on e-Technology Accessibility … and, in the European Union (EU), a coherent approach to the accessibility of even a modest range of EICT’s has not yet even been developed.

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Electronic, Information and Communication Technologies (EICT’s) must comply with Section 508 of the United States Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 … or with a suitable Standard/Guidance Document of another country which details an equivalent level of e-Accessibility performance.

U.S. Section 508 covers the following range of e-Technologies:

  • Software Applications & Operating Systems (1194.21) ;
  • Web-based Intranet and Internet Information and Applications (1194.22) ;
  • Telecommunications Products (1194.23) ;
  • Video and Multimedia Products (1194.24) ;
  • Self Contained, Closed Products (1194.25) ;
  • Desktop and Portable Computers (1194.26)

Source WebSite, Helpful Guidance & Support …

www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/communications-and-it/about-the-section-508-standards

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OVE ARUP & Hong Kong’s New Fire Safety Code of Practice

2012-02-18:  It will be of interest to people in this part of the world that Hong Kong has introduced a New Code of Practice on Fire Safety in Buildings, which will come into effect from 1 April 2012.  The reason for this interest will be strange and unusual …

Hong Kong Buildings Department

2011 Hong Kong Code of Practice for Fire Safety in Buildings

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (3.96 Mb)

The following extract from the Foreward (paragraph #3) to this Code of Practice explains how it came to be developed … and then issued back in September 2011 …

This Code of Practice may be cited as the Code of Practice for Fire Safety in Buildings.  It is prepared and issued by the Buildings Department on the basis of the consultancy study on fire engineering approach and fire safety in buildings.  The consultancy study was conducted by Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong Ltd., commissioned by the Buildings Department, and was supervised by a Steering Committee comprising representatives of professional institutions and other stakeholders of the building industry, as well as other Government Departments.

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It so happens that, here, a few weeks ago … I was wondering how the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was being implemented in a number of countries which had ratified it.  China ratified the Convention on 1 August 2008.  Once again, this is Article 11 …

UN CRPD  Article 11 – Situations of Risk & Humanitarian Emergencies

States Parties shall take, in accordance with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law, all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters.

[ Note:  An outbreak of fire in a building is a situation of serious risk for all vulnerable building users ! ]

So … what has been the response of Hong Kong to this issue … and to the voluntary obligation which China has accepted, under International Law, to comply with Article 11 of the UN CRPD ?

The issue has been completely ignored in the New Code of Practice !

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A More Balanced Presentation of Recent UN Gaza Flotilla Report

2011-09-05:  Something is seriously wrong when it is stated in an official United Nations (UN) Report that any aspect of the Gaza Blockade by Israel is legal, under International Law.

Colour photograph showing the MV Mavi Marmara aid-carrying ship leaving the port of Antalya, in Southern Turkey ... on 22 May 2010 ... for Gaza, in Palestine.

Colour photograph showing the MV Mavi Marmara aid-carrying ship leaving the port of Antalya, in Southern Turkey ... on 22 May 2010 ... for Gaza, in Palestine.

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On 2 August 2010 … UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, established a Panel of Inquiry to report on the 31 May 2010 Gaza Flotilla Incident in the International Waters of the Mediterranean Sea.  The Panel Team consisted of 4 Members …

  • Sir Geoffrey Palmer, Chair ;
  • President Álvaro Uribe, Vice-Chair ;
  • Mr. Joseph Ciechanover Itzhar ;   and
  • Mr. Süleyman Özdem Sanberk.

The Panel’s Report was released by the United Nations last Friday, 2 September 2011 … and can be downloaded from the following address … http://www.un.org/News/dh/infocus/middle_east/Gaza_Flotilla_Panel_Report.pdf

The Findings and Recommendations contained in the Panel’s Report have been widely covered since then, at national and international levels, in the various news media.

Colour photograph showing the 2010 Gaza Flotilla Panel of Inquiry Team ... Mr. Süleyman Özdem Sanberk, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, President Álvaro Uribe and Mr. Joseph Ciechanover Itzhar ... with UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, in the centre. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Colour photograph showing the 2010 Gaza Flotilla Panel of Inquiry Team ... Mr. Süleyman Özdem Sanberk, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, President Álvaro Uribe and Mr. Joseph Ciechanover Itzhar ... with UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, in the centre. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

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For a More Balanced Presentation of the Recent UN Gaza Flotilla Report, however, the following short statement by Mr. Sanberk, a graduate of the Law Faculty at Istanbul University and former Turkish Ambassador, must be reproduced – in full – and widely circulated.

Mr. Sanberk’s Statement can be viewed on Page 105 (the last page !) of the Report …

” I hereby register my disagreement with the Chairmanship on the following issues contained in the report:

  • The question of the legality of the blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel ;
  • The actions of the flotilla ;
  • Naval blockades in general ;
  • Appendix: The applicable International legal principles.

This, for the following reasons:

–  On the legal aspect of the blockade, Turkey and Israel have submitted two opposing arguments.  International legal authorities are divided on the matter since it is unprecedented, highly complex and the legal framework lacks codification.  However, the Chairmanship and its report fully associated itself with Israel and categorically dismissed the views of the other, despite the fact that the legal arguments presented by Turkey have been supported by the vast majority of the International Community.  Common sense and conscience dictate that the blockade is unlawful.

–  Also the UN Human Rights Council concluded that the blockade was unlawful.  The Report of the Human Rights Council Fact Finding Mission received widespread approval from the member states.

–  Freedom and safety of navigation on the high seas is a universally accepted rule of international law.  There can be no exception from this long-standing principle unless there is a universal convergence of views.

–  The intentions of the participants in the International Humanitarian Convoy were humanitarian, reflecting the concerns of the vast majority of the International Community.  They came under attack in international waters.  They resisted for their own protection.  Nine civilians were killed and many others were injured by the Israeli soldiers.  One of the victims is still in a coma.  The evidence confirms that at least some of the victims had been killed deliberately.

–  The wording in the report is not satisfactory in describing the actual extent of the atrocities that the victims have been subjected to.  This includes the scope of the maltreatment suffered by the passengers in the hands of Israeli soldiers and officials.

In view of the above, I reject and dissociate myself from the relevant parts and paragraphs of the report, as reflected in paragraphs ii, iv, v, vii of the findings contained in the summary of the report and paragraphs ii, iv, v, vii, viii and ix of the recommendations contained in the same text.”

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Sustainable Cities – The Driver to Forge a ‘Creative’ Society ?

Dr. Craig Barrett, Chair (2005-2009) of Intel Corporation’s Board, recently dropped some sharp home truths onto our frail and sensitive Irish laps … concerning national competitiveness in the Global Economic Environment.  It was like a breath of fresh air !   And … how right he was !!

Today, however, I want to focus on just one of his themes …

Quality Education + Quality Research & Development + Facilitating and Fostering Creativity & Innovation in Society

Since the 1990’s … we have had to listen to endless amounts of bullshit and hot air … until we are blue in the face … about the Information Society, the Knowledge Society, the Smart Society, the Green Society [what is ‘Green’ anyway ?], etc., etc., etc … and the biggest anti-climax of them all … the European Union’s Lisbon Strategy … boring, boring, boring !!!!

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When you hit the bottom of the barrel, there is only one place to look … and that’s up … with an engaged mind feverishly picturing what’s around outside !   So … for one wild moment, let’s join together some nice ideas …

Could Sustainable Cities be that essential driving force which forges a ‘Creative’ Society ???

What is the Sustainable Urban Environment (City) ?   A geographical region, with open and flexible boundaries, consisting of:

  • An interwoven, densely constructed core (built environment) ;
  • A large resident population of more than 500,000 people (social environment) ;
  • A supporting hinterland of lands, waters and other natural resources (cultivated or ‘wrought’ landscape) ;

And together functioning as …

  1. A complex living system (analogous to, yet different from, other living systems such as ecosystems and organisms) ;    and
  2. A synergetic community capable of providing a high level of individual welfare and social wellbeing for all of its inhabitants.

Our Ultimate Goal must be to achieve a dynamic and harmonious balance between a sustainable ‘human’ environment and a flourishing, not just a surviving, ‘natural’ environment … with the Overall Aim of achieving social wellbeing for all.

Sustainable Design Solutions must be appropriate to local geography, climate and future climate changes, economy, culture, social need and language(s)/dialect(s).

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Supporting Definitions

Human Environment:  Anywhere there is, or has been, an intrusion by a human being in the ‘natural’ environment.

Built Environment:  Anywhere there is, or has been, a man-made or wrought (worked) intervention by humans in the ‘natural’ environment, e.g. cities, towns, villages, rural settlements, services, transport systems, roads, bridges, tunnels, and cultivated lands, lakes, rivers, coasts, and seas, etc … including the ‘virtual’ environment.

Social Environment:  The complex network of real and virtual human interaction – at a communal or larger group level – which operates for reasons of tradition, culture, business, pleasure, information exchange, institutional organization, legal procedure, governance, human betterment, social progress and spiritual enlightenment, etc.

The ‘social’ environment shapes, binds together, and directs the future development of, the ‘built’ (including ‘virtual’) environment.

Economic Environment:  The intricate web of real and virtual human commercial activity – operating at micro and macro-economic levels – which facilitates, supports, but sometimes hampers or disrupts, human interaction in the ‘social’ environment.

Virtual Environment:  A designed environment, electronically-generated from within the ‘built’ environment, which may have the appearance, form, functionality and impact – to the person perceiving and actually experiencing it – of a real, imagined and/or utopian world.

Human Health:  A state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.  (World Health Organization)

Individual Welfare:  A person’s general feeling of health, happiness and fulfilment.

Social Wellbeing:  A general condition – in a community, society or culture – of health, happiness, creativity, responsible fulfilment, and sustainable development.

Sustainable Human & Social Development:  Development which meets the responsible needs, i.e. the Human & Social Rights*, of this generation – without stealing the life and living resources from future generations, especially our children … and their children.

*As defined, in International Law, by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN OHCHR).

Sustainable Design*:  The ethical design response, in built or wrought form, to the concept of Sustainable Human and Social Development.

*Includes Spatial Planning, Architectural / Engineering / Interior / Industrial Design and e-Design, etc.

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‘Accessible’ Emergency Services in Ireland ? … Action Now !

2009-02-17:  Mr. Joe Duffy, presenter of the popular phone-in RTÉ Radio 1 Programme: ‘Liveline (13.45-15.00 hrs. local time in Ireland), covered an item of major importance today … the complete lack, in our country, of ‘accessible’ emergency services for people with a hearing impairment (2001 WHO ICF).

 

To place this issue in a necessary wider context … back in December 2006, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  After various procedural ‘jigs and reels’, the Convention became an International Legal Instrument on 3rd May 2008.  This is now International Law !

 

 

It is worth quoting from some of the UN Convention’s Text

 

Article 9 – Accessibility

1. To enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas.  These measures, which shall include the identification and elimination of obstacles and barriers to accessibility, shall apply to, inter alia:

(a)  Buildings, roads, transportation and other indoor and outdoor facilities, including schools, housing, medical facilities and workplaces ;

(b)  Information, communications and other services, including electronic services and emergency services.

 

Article 11 – Situations of Risk & Humanitarian Emergencies

States Parties shall take, in accordance with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law, all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters.

 

[Note: Article 11 covers risk situations such as … fires in buildings.]

 

 

Progress with regard to the continuing Ratification of this United Nations Convention can be viewed here.

 

Although Ireland signed the Convention on 30th March 2007, amidst much publicity, this country has still not ratified it.  Why is that ?   Other European Union Member States have ratified it without any problem.

 

Yet again, why haven’t the National Disability Authority … and particularly Ms. Angela Kerins, NDA & Equality Authority Chairperson – ‘valiant protector, against all odds and foes, of disability & equal rights’ … screamed and protested loudly about Ireland’s disgraceful tardy ratification of the UN Disability Convention ?   Did we even hear a whimper from them ?   Definitely not.

 

This is an issue where an essential leadership role must be taken up – enthusiastically – by our politicians and senior civil servants.  The correct signals must be given to society as a whole.

 

What Mr. Joe Duffy does not understand, unfortunately, is that Irish Politicians and Senior Civil Servants would all rather commit ritual suicide on Merrion Street (outside the Dáil and Government Buildings) than give people with disabilities their rights.

 

 

There is no longer any acceptable reason whatsoever … why ‘accessible’ emergency services cannot be introduced immediately in this country … or throughout the rest of Europe.

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