National Disability Authority

Disability Access Certificates (DAC’s) – A Time to Worry ? (I)

2009-10-17:  Some of you are already hitting the Internet Search Engines … with fierce intent altogether … about  Disability Access Certificates (DAC’s) !

Is it Time to Panic ?   No.

For a simple and direct hit, the 2 most relevant Irish Legal Instruments are:

1.  Statutory Instrument No. 352 of 2009 – Building Control Act 2007 (Commencement) Order 2009.

This states …

” The 30 September 2009 is appointed as the day on which the provisions of Sections 5 and 6 of the Building Control Act 2007 shall come into operation.”

Section 5 covers the Amendment of Section 6 (Building Control Regulations) of the Building Control Act 1990.

Section 6 covers the Amendment of Section 7 (Appeals) of the Building Control Act 1990.

2.  Statutory Instrument No. 351 of 2009 – Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2009.

This states …

” These Regulations shall come into effect on 1 October 2009, except for the provisions of Article 8 which shall come into effect on 1 January 2009.”

Article 8 covers Disability Access Certificates and Revised Disability Access Certificates.

For you, yourself, to properly examine all of the ‘ins and outs’ of this New Certification Scheme … download the PDF File below … and then search the document (making sure that it is not case-sensitive !) using the phrase ‘Disability Access Certificate’.  You will find 99 instances where the phrase is used.

Enjoy !

Ireland: Statutory Instrument No. 351 of 2009 – Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2009

Click the Link above to read/download PDF File (223 Kb)

In order to make full sense of all that is happening, and is intended to happen in the not too distant future … there are a few other Legal Instruments, related to the two listed, which also need to be consulted … but that is an exercise meant for masochists !

In comparison, the European Union Lisbon Treaty was a sweet bedtime story !   Seriously !!

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Is it Time to Worry ?   Yes.

Here are just a few random ideas for your cogitation …

  • If the Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government (DEHLG) pays little heed to Submissions made during and after this summer’s ‘consultation’ process … the proposed New Technical Guidance Document M: ‘Access & Use’ will end up looking like a real dog’s dinner of an absolute mess !   FUBAR.

Years were spent in the preparation of the New TGD M.  When it does eventually appear, it will be an accurate reflection of technical capacities within both the Department and the National Disability Authority (NDA).

Deeply regretted is the absence of Mr. Kevin Spencer … a gentle soul … from the DEHLG.  Things have not been the same since his departure.  He knew what he was talking about.

  • Who will deal, at a technical level, with Applications for Disability Access Certificates in the Local Authorities ?   Will they be competent to do so ?   Will their interpretation of the Part M Legal Requirements be harmonized … not just with other/different Authorities … but even with other technical personnel in the same Authority ???
  • In order to make this new certification scheme work, will the Guidance Text in Technical Guidance Document M (whatever version appears !) be operated as if it were Prescriptive Regulation … which will be totally illegal ?

This has been exactly the story … for many years … with the Guidance Text in Technical Guidance Document B … in the course of operation of the Fire Safety Certification Scheme.  FUBAR.

  • If, as I hinted above, the proposed New Technical Guidance Document M: ‘Access & Use’ will be a real dog’s dinner of a mess … falling far short of what can now be reasonably described as minimal accessibility performance (see the Draft International Accessibility-for-All Standard ISO 21542) … this will certainly open Building Owners/Managers of newly completed buildings to Complaints under Irish Equality Legislation.  Why is the Disability Sector so inactive with regard to making complaints ?

and finally …

  • Are the relevant Irish Decision Makers, as I suggested might happen in a previous post, in the process of actually sleepwalking into an unquestioned acceptance of the inadequate British Standards BS 9999 : 2008 and BS 8300 : 2009 ???   Do they know how to do anything else ?

 

For some sublime moments of meditation, however, please chew on the information provided at these Pages on the SDI Support WebSite

Disability Rights & Removing Physical Restrictions on Participation in Society ;

Towards a Sustainable Social Environment, Accessibility-for-All & Facilitation Design (2001 WHO ICF) ;

Fire Evacuation-for-All & Principles of Fire Engineering.

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National Disability Authority – 2nd Time Unlucky with Evacuation ?

2009-06-16:  Further to one of our first posts, dated 12th December 2008 (or 2008-12-12 !), concerning the National Disability Authority’s 2008 Publication: ‘Promoting Safe Egress and Evacuation for People with Disabilities’

On 15th April 2009 … we were circulated by Mr. Shane Hogan (NDA), in a general e-mail communication which was not addressed to us … with a Proposed 2nd Draft of the Evacuation Document.  Comments on this 2nd Draft were requested.

So … here are our comments …

1.  We repeat the earlier statement that ‘the document has many technical errors’.  It is clear that the National Disability Authority does not possess the requisite technical competence to oversee the proper development of such a publication.

Furthermore … many of the inadequate, flawed and discriminatory practices in relation to Fire Safety, Protection and Evacuation for All which have originated in Britain over many years … and are described yet again and most recently in BS 9999:2008 – Code of Practice for Fire Safety in the Design, Management and Use of Buildings (see previous post) … are just mindlessly regurgitated in the NDA Publication.

2.  We very much believe in, and are promoters of, Open Content on the Internet.  For that reason, SDI’s Copyright Guidelines are quite liberal.  And … although we do reserve all rights … we also state that …

‘ Reproduction by others of content produced and/or developed by Sustainable Design International Limited is permitted, except for commercial purposes, provided the source is acknowledged.’

It is clearly shown in the NDA’s 2nd Draft that copyright material developed by FireOx International (the Fire Engineering Division of Sustainable Design International Ltd.) was used, and abused, by White Young Green Consultants (Ireland) in the original 2008 NDA Publication.

We do not wish technical terms to be altered  … or our material to be linked directly with BS 8300:2009 – Design of Buildings and Their Approaches to Meet the Needs of Disabled People … and BS 9999:2008.  Please re-read our previous post !

White Young Green Consultants (Ireland) gained commercially from the use of our copyright material.  They did not inform us … nor did they request any permission from us … prior to that use.

Our material has been used again in the NDA’s 2nd Draft … and still nobody has bothered to seek our permission … for or about anything !

In order to at least appear to be acting ethically … perhaps somebody in the NDA, e.g. Ms. Mary Van Lieshout, Mr. Shane Hogan, Dr. Gerald Craddock or Ms. Angela Kerins might care to communicate directly with us now.

Finally, our private thoughts and feelings with regard to the actions of White Young Green Consultants (Ireland) shall remain just that … private !

Perhaps, however, White Young Green Consultants (Ireland) might cover the costs involved in consulting with our team of legal advisors.

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People with Activity Limitations (2001 WHO ICF) ?

2009-05-12:  Or … in French: Personnes à Performances Réduites … a term which should be used much more often !

 

For many decades, the language of ‘disability’ has been all over the place, to put it mildly … others might suggest, however, that it lacks coherence, and is fragmented and chaotic !   As a result, it has been difficult to make any sort of solid progress on harmonization … at a technical level … in Europe.

 

Adopted on the 22nd May 2001, the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability & Health (ICF), changed that situation for the better.  It is important to emphasise that the ICF is a classification of ‘Health’ … not of ‘Disability’.

 

 

People with Activity Limitations (English) /

Personnes à Performances Réduites (French):

Those people, of all ages, who are unable to perform, independently and without aid, basic human activities or tasks – because of a health condition or physical/mental/cognitive/psychological impairment of a permanent or temporary nature.

 

This term includes …

 

         wheelchair users ;

         people who experience difficulty in walking, with or without aid, e.g. stick, crutch, calliper or walking frame ;

         frail, older people ;

         the very young (people under the age of 5 years) ;

         people who suffer from arthritis, asthma, or a heart condition ;

         the visually and/or hearing impaired ;

         people who have a cognitive impairment disorder, including dementia, amnesia, brain injury, or delirium ;

         women in the later stages of pregnancy ;

         people impaired following the use of alcohol, other ‘social’ drugs, e.g. cocaine and heroin, and some medicines, e.g. psychotropic drugs ;

         people who suffer any partial or complete loss of language related abilities, i.e. aphasia ;

         people impaired following exposure to environmental pollution and/or irresponsible human activity ;

 

and

 

         people who experience a panic attack in a fire situation or other emergency ;

         people, including firefighters, who suffer incapacitation as a result of exposure, during a fire, to poisonous or toxic substances, and/or elevated temperatures.

 

 

Anosognosia:

A neurological disorder marked by the inability of a person to recognize that he/she has an activity limitation or a health condition.

 

 

 

What is the big deal here ?

 

Because of the stigma which still attaches to ‘disability’ … and because some people are unable to recognise that they have an activity limitation or a health condition … depending on self-declaration, alone, for the purposes of developing suitable Fire Safety Management Procedures in a building (of any type) is a recipe for certain failure of those procedures.

 

And … of very direct relevance to design practice generally … compare the weak and inadequate definition of people with disabilities in Part M4 of the Irish Building Regulations (there is no reason to suspect that there will be an earth shattering improvement to this definition in the Revised Technical Guidance Document M … whenever it eventually sees the light of day !) … with the definition of disability in Irish Equality Legislation.

 

Chalk and Cheese !   Or … from the ridiculous to the sublime !   Check it out for yourself.

 

The consequence of this remarkable difference in definitions for anyone involved in the design and/or construction of a building is that … while they might very well be satisfying the Functional Requirements of Parts M and B in the Building Regulations … they will, more than likely, be still leaving the owner and the person who controls or manages the new building open to a complaint under our Equality Legislation.

 

In the case of Workplaces … truly brave is the person who will design a ‘place of work’ just to meet the minimal performance requirements of Building Regulations !

 

 

As a Rule of Thumb, therefore … architects, engineers, facility managers, construction organizations, etc, etc … should become more comfortable working with the concept of People with Activity Limitations.

 

 

This practical Rule of Thumb is also what lies behind the concept of Maximum Credible User Scenario, i.e. building user conditions which are severe, but reasonable to anticipate …

 

         the number of people using a building may increase, on occasions which cannot be specified, to 120% of calculated maximum building capacity ;   and

         10% of people using the building (occupants, visitors and other users) may have an impairment (visual or hearing, physical function, mental, cognitive or psychological, with some impairments not being identifiable, e.g. in the case of anosognosia).

 

 

 

[ Please note well … that miserable piece of legislation … or, bureaucrats’ charter .. the 2005 Disability Act (Number 14 of 2005) … is irrelevant to the above discussion.  But … when Irish Politicians, Senior Civil Servants and the National Disability Authority begin to take seriously the 2006 United Nations Charter on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities … the 2005 Act will have to be scrapped altogether and/or dramatically re-drafted ! ]

 

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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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National Disability Authority – Viable ?

2008-12-12:  Further to the much regretted resignation of Mr. Niall Crowley, the Equality Authority’s Chief Executive, on the evening of 11th December 2008 … and meditating on the poor protection of human and social rights in Ireland …

 

It was interesting to listen to Ms. Angela Kerins, Chairperson of the National Disability Authority (NDA), giving sincere and earnest interviews in the media, a few weeks ago, about the possible amalgamation of the NDA into a larger, but single, Rights & Equality Organization.  [She also holds the Chair of the Equality Authority.]  

 

The question which I have been asking myself for a number of years is: “Does the NDA serve the best interests of the Irish Disability Sector ?”.

 

Back in September 2005, for example, I drafted a submission on behalf of FireOx International, SDI’s Fire Engineering Division, concerning the Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government’s Outline Disability Sectoral Plan (2004) … and its serious omission of any consideration of ‘fire safety for all’ in buildings.

 

Commencing the Submission, I stated …

 

The 2005 Disability Act (Number 14 of 2005) is a deeply flawed and inadequate piece of legislation; and every individual and/or organization associated with its inception and development should be thoroughly ashamed.  It is an outrage, and a national disgrace.

 

In particular, we do not understand why every Board Member of the National Disability Authority has not already tendered his/her resignation.  We demand that this should now happen, and without any further delay.”

 

See the full 2005 FireOx International Submission.

 

 

Earlier this year (in April 2008), when reviewing a new National Disability Authority Publication: ‘Promoting Safe Egress and Evacuation for People with Disabilities’, I discovered – much to my great surprise – that the authors of the document, White Young Green Consultants (Ireland), had cut some corners and used copyrighted material developed by FireOx International for their commercial gain … without any permission.  This was later acknowledged by the National Disability Authority.

 

This NDA Publication also has many technical errors.

 

Maybe … it is Ms. Angela Kerins who should have resigned long ago … and not Mr. Niall Crowley ?

 

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