Ar C.J. Walsh – Consultant Architect, Fire Engineer & Technical Controller – International Expert on Sustainability Implementation + Accessibility-for-All + Fire Safety for All + Sustainable Fire Engineering
Within the professional discipline of Fire Engineering … either a building is Fire Safe, or it is not ; the design philosophy of the Fire Engineer is irrelevant. Similarly, building designers must now begin to think and act in the simple terms of a building being either Accessible, or not. Too many pointless discussions, and too much petty squabbling, about constrained and constraining accessibility philosophies have wasted valuable time, energy and resources.
Building Accessibility encompasses the complete cycle of Independent Use, in a dignified manner and on an equal basis with others … and includes the approach, entry and use of a building, its facilities and information systems … Egress during normal / ambient conditions and removal from the vicinity of the building … and most importantly, safe Evacuation during a fire emergency to a Place of Safety which is remote from the building and reached by way of an accessible route.
To be Accessible, a building must meet a long and complex list of inter-related Accessibility & Usability Design Criteria sufficiently well, i.e. the building must work properly for building occupants and users. The design target is Effective Accessibility … not half-baked accessibility, partial accessibility, the minimal accessibility required by building codes, or token accessibility.
On the other hand, and taking additional account of the current CoronaVirus / CoVID-19 Pandemic … the construction and operation target must be Successful Implementation, i.e. the finished building design, as constructed and operated, must provide a consistently high degree of safety, convenience and comfort for potential occupants and users during the lifetime of the building.
People with Activity Limitations … those people, of all ages, who are unable to perform, independently and without assistance, basic human activities or tasks – because of a health condition or physical / mental / cognitive / psychological impairment of a permanent or temporary nature … are a significant vulnerable group in every community, in every society, and include people with disabilities, children under the age of 5 years, frail older people, women in the later stages of pregnancy, and people with health conditions, etc.
Fire Safety Codes and Standards for healthy, able-bodied, agile adults using buildings exist in almost every country ; these people can take for granted that buildings are fire safe for them !
However, guidelines concerning Fire Safety for People with Activity Limitations / Fire Safety for ALL (if those guidelines exist at all) are usually technically inadequate, entirely tokenistic and/or blatantly discriminatory ; these people must assume that there is a serious risk to their safety every time they enter a building. For them, this is a very significant barrier to their personal development, participation and social inclusion ; it is a clear and present violation of their human rights !
Forcefully mandated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adopted on 13 December 2006 … the UN CRPD’s Principal Aim is to ensure that the Human Environment (social, built, economic, virtual, and institutional) is sufficiently accessible to facilitate the safe exercise and enjoyment of those rights, protections and freedoms set down in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and subsequent International Rights Instruments, by a vulnerable and major section of the population in all of our communities.
It is time to Entirely Eradicate current obsolete, professionally negligent, incompetent and ridiculous approaches to Building Design which result in …
Fire Safety for SOME but not for ALL
Accessibility for SOME but not for ALL
Intricately inter-related … ‘Fire Safety for All’ is a vital component of ‘Accessibility for All’.
2015-02-01: This important Event is still a few months away, but the following update will be of interest …. a mixture of some good news and some bad news …
To Register / To Attend … please go to the Event WebSite: www.fire-safety-for-all.eu … places are limited in the New Conference Venue.
1. 2015 Dublin ‘Fire Safety for All’ Declaration – A Call to Action & Successful Implementation !
From the beginning, we promised that this would not be a polite gathering in Dublin. It will, instead, be a time for hard work and straight talking by everybody attending … and a good opportunity to have some fun also. Dublin is a very ‘sociable’ city !
If you would like to comment on this document, or if you have any questions … please send an e-mail message to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Drafting of the CIB W14 Research Working Group V Reflection Document has already commenced.
2. Dublin Fire Safety for All Event’s First Press Release
A strong message from and about the Dublin Event must be widely disseminated at international and national levels … download and read / forward / circulate / publish FireOx International’s First Event Press Release (PDF File, 49 Kb), dated 1 February 2015 …
Please help us to spread the word !
3. Embarrassment about Original Conference Venue
Accessibility of a Building … encompasses the complete cycle of independent use, in a dignified manner and on an equal basis with others … and includes the approach, entry and use of a building and its facilities, egress during normal conditions and removal from its vicinity … and, most importantly, safe evacuation during a fire incident to a place of safety which is remote from the building and reached by way of an accessible route.
As I write … Ireland has a truck load of accessibility-related National Building Regulations and EU Safety at Work Law (transposed at national level a long, long time ago). We have strong Equality Law. We have ease of access to accessibility-related International Standards (such as ISO 21542: 2011) and National Standards from other European Countries, North & South America, and Asia. We have accessibility-related National Guidance Documents coming out of our ears, and easy access to all sorts of other guidance from around the world. Lots and lots and lots and lots of paperwork, in digital and hardcopy formats !
Ireland today … is still one of only a few remaining countries which have yet to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the principal aim of which is to ensure that the Human Environment (including the built, social, economic, virtual and institutional environments) is sufficiently accessible for people with activity limitations to participate positively in all aspects of their local communities … a basic human right, which every able-bodied person takes for granted !
” This is not just a national disgrace, it is a huge embarrassment for our country when you consider that the European Union itself and most of the EU’s Member States have already ratified this UN Convention.”
AND … as I look around Dublin … the City is NOT accessible for its many vulnerable residents and foreign visitors !
Are you sitting comfortably ? Then I will tell you a short story … a ‘real’ story, not a fairy tale … about the Original Conference Venue …
Mr. Sean Sherlock, T.D., Minister of State at Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs with responsibility for Overseas Development Aid, has agreed to open the Event on the evening of Thursday, 9 April 2015. All of Irish Aid’s Partner Countries in Africa have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Given the serious, socially transformative topic of this Conference … the Minister had also kindly offered to waive the fee for the hire of the Printworks Building in Dublin Castle – a very prestigious location in the City, and a building which was been extensively refurbished in time for Ireland’s recent Presidency of the European Union. The audio-visual fit-out for this building is magnificently elaborate. Most unfortunately, the building’s accessibility is entirely inadequate (‘ATROCIOUS’ would be a better word to describe it) !
However, with the right attitude and positive co-operation from the Venue Management Team, many improvements to the building’s accessibility could have been made for the Conference. From the beginning, however, the Management Team’s response to this issue was negative.
” It is entirely unacceptable that this State’s New and Heritage Building Stock is designed, constructed, and/or managed without a full and proper consideration … and successful implementation … of Accessibility for All and Fire Safety for All ! “
The Venue Management Team has refused to honour the Minister’s waiver.
We have had no other option but to move the Conference and Workshop to a far better Venue just around the corner … the Radisson Blu Hotel in Golden Lane, Dublin.
A Building which is NOT Accessible is difficult, if not impossible, for everybody to evacuate during a real fire incident …
‘Rigorous enforcement of building codes and standards by state and local agencies, well trained and managed, is critical in order for standards and codes to ensure the expected level of safety. Unless they are complied with, the best codes and standards cannot protect occupants, emergency responders, or buildings.’
(2005 U.S. NIST NCSTAR 1: Final Report on the Collapse of the World Trade Center Towers … Page 202, Chapter 9: Recommendations)
United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
UN CRPD Article 33 – National Implementation & Monitoring
1. States Parties, in accordance with their system of organization, shall designate one or more focal points within government for matters relating to the implementation of the present Convention, and shall give due consideration to the establishment or designation of a co-ordination mechanism within government to facilitate related action in different sectors and at different levels. 2. States Parties shall, in accordance with their legal and administrative systems, maintain, strengthen, designate or establish within the State Party, a framework, including one or more independent mechanisms, as appropriate, to promote, protect and monitor implementation of the present Convention. When designating or establishing such a mechanism, States Parties shall take into account the principles relating to the status and functioning of national institutions for protection and promotion of human rights. 3. Civil society, in particular persons with disabilities and their representative organizations, shall be involved and participate fully in the monitoring process.
The Access Consultants for Dublin Castle were O’Herlihy Access Consultancy.
2014-12-09:FireOx International, the Fire Engineering Division of Sustainable Design International Ltd., is very pleased and proud to present the following Global CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) Event …
Co-Sponsored by CIB & RI-ICTA
Kindly supported by Fáilte Ireland
This will not be a polite gathering intended just for an Irish audience, or even for Europeans … this is a Global Event – a catalyst for Substantive Social Transformation everywhere !
Within the professional discipline of Fire Engineering … either a building is Fire Safe or it is not ; the design philosophy of the fire engineer is irrelevant. Similarly, now, we must begin to think and act in the simple terms of a building either being Accessible for All, or not. And if the building is accessible for all, does it tick all of the right accessibility boxes well, i.e. effectively ?
While building fire safety codes and standards exist in almost every country … guidelines relating to the Fire Safety of People with Activity Limitations – IF those guidelines exist at all – are technically inadequate, entirely tokenistic, blatantly discriminatory, and rarely implemented.
This is a very significant obstacle to Effective Building Accessibility everywhere !!
Accessibility is now understood to mean the full cycle of independent building use, in an equitable and dignified manner … and this term includes the approach, entry to and use of a building, egress during normal conditions and removal from the vicinity of the building … and, most importantly, evacuation during a fire incident to a ‘place of safety’ which is remote from the building. (ISO 21542 : 2011)
Cogently mandated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) … the CRPD’s principal aim is to ensure that the Built, Social, Economic and Virtual Environments are sufficiently ‘accessible’ to permit a vulnerable and major(!) population group in all of our societies to enjoy the fundamental freedoms and human rights described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).
Refer to Preamble Paragraph (g) in the UN Convention …
‘ Emphasizing the importance of mainstreaming disability issues as an integral part of relevant strategies of sustainable development,’
and to … Article 3 (General Principles), Article 9 (Accessibility), Article 11 (Situations of Risk & Humanitarian Emergencies), Article 19 (Living Independently & Being Included in the Community), Article 20 (Personal Mobility), Article 24 (Education), Article 27 (Work & Employment), Article 31 (Statistics & Data Collection), Article 32 (International Co-Operation), and Article 33 (National Implementation & Monitoring).
The focus of this event, therefore, is Real Accessibility. In other words, Effective Accessibility for People with Activity Limitations (which includes people with disabilities, and children under the age of 5 years, frail older people, women in the later stages of pregnancy, and people with health conditions, etc.) … an accessibility which actually works well for all potential building users. And it is appropriate also, now, to introduce the concept of Monitoring and Targeting this ‘real’ accessibility … independently, i.e. by 3rd Parties !
It is time to Reboot this ridiculous, professionally negligent and obsolete old system … Reload with innovative and practical building design, construction, management and personal self-protection solutions … and Implement !
2014-10-17: Within the professional discipline of Fire Engineering … either a building is ‘fire safe’, or it is not. The Design Philosophy of the Fire Engineer is irrelevant. In fact, nearly everybody involved with fire safety in buildings would collapse in a fit of laughter at the delusional notion that a design philosophy was relevant. People’s lives are at stake !
Similarly, now, we must begin to think and act in the simple terms of a building either being ‘accessible’, or not. At stake, this time, is the quality of life and living for very many vulnerable people in all of our societies.
Accessibility for All, according to International Standard ISO 21542 (2011) … includes the approach, entry to and use of a building, egress during normal conditions and removal from the vicinity of the building … and, most importantly, evacuation during a fire incident to a ‘place of safety’ which is remote from the building.
Concerning that All above … FireOx International’s ‘Fire Safety for All’ Matrix shows who exactly we are talking about … and who must be considered in the development of a Fire Safety Strategy for every building … not just some buildings !
This is not just good design practice … it is also mandated in International Human Rights Law.
Building Fire Safety Codes and Standards exist in almost every country. However – IF they exist at all – those guidelines relating to the Fire Safety of People with Activity Limitations are technically inadequate, entirely tokenistic and/or blatantly discriminatory.
It is time to Reboot this ridiculous, professionally negligent and obsolete old system … Reload with innovative and practical building design, construction, management and personal self-protection solutions … and Implement !
Submissions on India’s Draft Amendment No.1 to the 2005 National Building Code (SP 7:2005) concerning the Proposed Incorporation of a New Part 11: ‘Approach to Sustainability’ had to arrive at the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), in Dilli … by e-mail … no later than Friday last, 15 March 2013 …
Indian NBC, Proposed Part 11 on ‘Sustainability’ – December 2012 Consultation
Extract From Foreword (Page 7):
‘ Developed nations’ approach to sustainability generally concentrates on energy conservation through high technology innovations, and use of products, materials and designs with lower embodied energy. Their green ratings are based on intent, which implies expert inputs and simulation. The Indian construction industry will do better using our traditional wisdom and practices, building in harmony with nature through regional common knowledge, consuming as little as necessary, applying low cost technology innovations, using recycled materials, and recognizing performance (not intent) through easily measurable parameters wherever feasible.’
How Right They Are About Prioritizing ‘Real’ Performance !!
And Just Before That Extract Above:
‘ The authentic (my insert !) Indian way of life is aparigraha (minimum possessions), conservation (minimum consumption), and recycling (minimum waste). These three attributes are the guiding principles for sustainable buildings as well. With these attributes and its rich heritage, India can make a substantial contribution in this field and eventually lead the world on the path of sustainability.’
An Overly Ambitious Target ? Perhaps Not.
SDI Supporting India’s National Sustainable Buildings Strategy …
We very much welcome this opportunity to make a Submission on India’s Draft Amendment No.1 to the 2005 National Building Code (SP 7:2005) concerning the Proposed Inclusion of a New Part 11 ‘Approach to Sustainability’.
This IS an important development for India … and it DOES mark a substantial contribution to this field, at international level. We wish that other countries would follow your example … particularly China, the other mushrooming economies in South-East Asia, and the Arab Gulf States.
You may not be aware that Sustainable Design International (SDI) has been specializing in the theory and implementation of a Sustainable Human Environment (social, built, virtual, and economic) since the mid-1990’s.
And, for example … in September 2007, we were invited to make a series of Keynote Presentations to 20 Senior National Decision-Makers, from both the public and private sectors, at a 2-Day Workshop which was organized for us in Lisboa, Portugal. If invited, we would be delighted to repeat this valuable exercise in Dilli, Bengaluru, and other suitable venues in India.
IF India is to lead the world on this particular track, i.e. Sustainable Buildings, a coherent philosophy must be outlined in the Proposed New Part 11 of the National Building Code, and a clear direction must also be given there to decision-makers, e.g. clients/client organizations, and designers.
Because you have prioritized ‘real’ building performance over pre-construction design ‘intent’, it is appropriate to begin our comments here …
1. Sustainability Performance Indicators
In order to prioritize ‘real’ performance, the monitoring of actual sustainability performance in completed and occupied buildings must be comprehensive, accurate and reliable. Indicators of sustainability performance must, therefore, be included in all sections of the Proposed New Part 11.
Sustainability Performance Indicators provide important signposts for decision-making and design in many ways. They can translate physical and social science knowledge into manageable units of information which facilitate the decision-making and design processes. They can help to measure and calibrate progress towards sustainable development goals, and sectoral sustainability targets. They can provide an early warning to prevent economic, social and environmental damage and harm. They are also important tools to communicate ideas, thoughts and values because, as statisticians say: “We measure what we value, and value what we measure”.
Performance Indicators may be both quantitative and qualitative … but must cover all stages of the building process, i.e. project feasibility and performance specification, spatial planning, design, construction, management, operation, maintenance and servicing, de-construction, disposal, final site clean-up and sustainable repair.
While many, though not all, types of building performance can be successfully monitored using lightweight portable equipment … a certain number of monitoring devices must also be permanently installed in the building during construction. A facility to reliably feed the output from these devices back to data collection points, on site and remote, must also be incorporated in the Building’s Intelligent Management System.
Management and collation of sustainability performance data must be reliable. Uncertainty is always present. Therefore, Statements of Uncertainty should always be attached to ‘reliable’ data.
Safety Factors should always be included when targeting critical ‘health and safety’ related types of performance.
Sustainability Performance Indicators must be directly comparable across different Global Regions … within Asia, across different countries … and within India, across different States. A Balanced, Harmonized Core Set of Indian Performance Indicators should be quickly developed. A Balanced ‘Local’ Set of Performance Indicators will always be necessary.
People tasked with monitoring sustainable building performance must be competent … and independent, i.e. be unconnected to client, design and construction organizations.
As currently drafted … Definition 2.26 Sustainable Development, on Page 13 of the Proposed New Part 11, is not only ambiguous, it is inadequate for India’s needs … and it is barely the first half of the full, correct definition …
Sustainable Development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts:
the concept of ‘needs’, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given ; and
the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.
[ Please refer to the 1987 Report of the World Commission on Environment & Development (WCED): ‘Our Common Future’ – Chapter 2, Paragraph 1.]
This original definition in the 1987 WCED Report IS appropriate for India … and it must become the core definition at the heart of India’s National Sustainable Buildings Strategy !
A careful reading of the full definition makes it clear that there are Many Aspects to this intricate, open, dynamic and still evolving concept … the most important of which are: Social, Economic, Environmental, Institutional, Political, and Legal.
It is a Fundamental Principle of Sustainability, and one of its Primary Values … that Implementation must be Synchronous, Balanced and Equitable across All Aspects of Sustainability.
The ‘Green Agenda’ merely considers Environmental Aspects of Sustainability … in isolation from all of the other Aspects ! This is a fatal flaw which must be avoided in the Proposed New Part 11 !!
[ I made many references to this issue during the FSAI Conferences in India ! ]
3. Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA) for India !
Rather than Environmental Impact Assessment … surely the Proposed New Part 11: ‘Approach to Sustainability’ must now use, explain and discuss Sustainability Impact Assessment instead !?!
Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA)
A continual evaluation and optimization assessment – informing initial decision-making, or design, and shaping activity/product/service realization, useful life and termination, or final disposal – of the interrelated positive and negative social, economic, environmental, institutional, political and legal impacts on the synchronous, balanced and equitable implementation of Sustainable Human & Social Development.
4. A Robust Legal Foundation for ‘Sustainable Human & Social Development’
Paragraph 4 (Chapter 2, 1987 WCED Report) states …
‘ The satisfaction of human needs and aspirations is the major objective of development. The essential needs of vast numbers of people in developing countries – for food, clothing, shelter, jobs – are not being met, and beyond their basic needs these people have legitimate aspirations for an improved quality of life. A world in which poverty and inequity are endemic will always be prone to ecological and other crises. Sustainable development requires meeting the basic needs of all and extending to all the opportunity to satisfy their aspirations for a better life.’
Trying to list the essential needs of people / the basic needs of all is a very difficult task … but it is work which has been on-going, at international level, since just after the Second World War.
The essential needs of people / the basic needs of all … are specified as being Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and are already fully described within the extensive framework of International Legal Rights Instruments.
Which is why, many years ago, SDI developed this definition for Sustainable Human & Social Development … in order:
to give this concept a robust legal foundation ; and
(because of widespread confusion in media, political and academic circles) … to clearly establish that we are talking about sustainable human and social development, and not sustainable economic development, or any other type of 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 … and the next five generations of children.
*As defined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
5. Climate Change Adaptation & Resilient Buildings in India ?
Atmospheric Ozone Depletion and Climate Change are mentioned, here and there, in the Proposed New Part 11. The important implications of these phenomena for Sustainable Building Design in India are not explained … at all. Why not ?
To properly respond to these phenomena, both must be integrated into India’s National Sustainability Strategies & Policies.
At the very least … we strongly recommend that Design Guidance on Climate Resilient Buildings be immediately drafted. This guidance must be appropriate for implementation in each of the different climatic regions of India.
6. A Sustainable Indian Built Environment which is Accessible for All !
Barrier Free is mentioned, here and there, in the Proposed New Part 11. This is to be warmly welcomed and congratulated. Under Social Aspects of Sustainable Human & Social Development … this is an essential attribute of a Sustainable Built Environment ! However, no guidance on this subject is given to decision-makers or designers. Why not ?
However, you should be aware that India ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) on 1 October 2007. For your convenience, I have attached copies of the Convention in English, Hindi and Tamil.
You should also be aware that, in December 2011, the International Standards Organization (ISO) published ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’. In its Introduction, ISO 21542 is directly linked to the U.N. Convention … almost like an umbilical cord. The scope of this Standard currently covers public buildings. As the Accessibility Agenda in the U.N. Convention is very broad … much standardization work remains to be finished at international level.
The correct term … Accessibility for All … has been defined in ISO 21542 as including … ‘access to buildings, circulation within buildings and their use, egress from buildings in the normal course of events, and evacuation in the event of an emergency’.
A note at the beginning of the standard also clarifies that Accessibility is an independent activity, i.e. assistance from another person should not be necessary … and that there should be an assurance of individual health, safety and welfare during the course of those (accessibility-related) activities.
In order to fulfil India’s legal obligations as a State Party to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities … adequate Design Guidance on Accessibility must be included in the Proposed New Part 11, supported by ISO 21542.
In addition, the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) should immediately adopt ISO 21542 as the Indian National Standard on Accessibility for All … IS / ISO 21542.
[ I made many references to this issue during the FSAI Conferences in India ! ]
7. Fire Safety & Protection for All in Sustainable Indian Buildings ?
Yes … there is 1 mention of ‘fire safety’ and 40 other references to ‘fire’ in the Proposed New Part 11 … but no design guidance. Why not ?
You should be aware that there is a fundamental conflict between Sustainable Building Design Strategies and the current state-of-the-art in Fire Engineering Design. As a good example … for cooling, heating and/or ventilation purposes in a sustainable building, it is necessary to take advantage of natural patterns of air movement in that building. On the other hand, fire engineers in private practice, and fire prevention officers in Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s), will demand that building spaces be strictly compartmented in order to limit the spread of fire and smoke … thereby dramatically interfering with those natural patterns of air movement.
In everyday practice, there is a vast chasm in understanding and communication between these two very different design disciplines. As a result, serious compromises are being enforced on Sustainability Building Performance. If, on the other hand, adequate independent technical control is absent on the site of a Sustainable Building … it is the fire safety and protection which is being seriously compromised.
A range of critical fire safety issues (fatal, in the case of firefighters) are also arising with the Innovative Building Products and Systems being installed in Sustainable Buildings.
Because the emphasis is on pre-construction design ‘intent’ rather than the ‘real’ performance of the completed and occupied building … all of these problems are being conveniently ignored, and they remain hidden from everybody’s view.
This must be addressed in the Proposed New Part 11.
[ I made many references to this issue during the FSAI Conferences in India ! ]
C. J. Walsh – Consultant Architect, Fire Engineer & Technical Controller – Managing Director, Sustainable Design International Ltd. – Ireland, Italy & Turkey.
2012-11-30: Related specifically to my 2 Previous Posts on 27 November 2012 & 28 November 2012 … this is how we would like to help you … whether you are an individual, or an organization … whether you are located in Ireland, Italy or Turkey … some other part of Europe, the Arab Gulf Region, India, Japan, China … or wherever !
And … we can, if requested or necessary, work in collaboration with local partners in those different geographical regions.
For many Weak and Vulnerable People, today’s Complex Human Environment is inaccessible and unsafe … a hostile ‘reality’ which prevents independent functioning and participation in a local community; it is a blatant denial of their human rights.
Restrictions on Social Participation, e.g. physical barriers, sloppy user-unfriendly management procedures, discrimination, stigma, etc … also limit the Use Potential of buildings, transportation systems, public spaces and other facilities … shortening product life cycles.
These factors impose a large, negative cost burden on society generally … and on you, as an individual … or as an organization, whether private or public. It is bad business !
SDI’s Commitment to You
As a necessary response to the New Paradigm of ‘Accessibility’ mandated by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and elaborated in greater detail by International Standard ISO 21542 : 2011 –
WE are committed to … the implementation of a Sustainable Human Environment which is Effectively Accessible for All … through the use of innovative, person-centred and reliability-based sustainable design practices and procedures.
SDI’s Accessibility Services
WE will advise you on Accessibility Policy, Accessibility Strategy Development, Accessibility Implementation … and, whether you are within or from outside the European Union, on CE Marking of Accessibility Related Construction Products ;
WE understand the process of Design, particularly the new language of Sustainable Design … and we will produce Creative Accessibility Solutions for Your Project ;
WE are thoroughly familiar with the intricacies of Building Sites … and we will verify and/or validate Design Compliance during construction, and at project completion … and, if requested or necessary, as a completely Independent Technical Controller ;
WE communicate easily and effectively with other Professional Design Disciplines, including fire engineers … and we will act as fully participating members of Your Project Design & Construction Team ;
Are adapted to Local Geography, Climate/Climate Change, Social Need, Culture, Economy … and Severe Events (e.g. earthquakes and flooding) ;
Are ‘Person-Centred’, i.e. that design process which places ‘real’ people at the centre of creative endeavours and gives due consideration to their responsible needs, and their health, safety, welfare and security in the Human Environment ;
Are ‘Reliability-Based’, i.e. that design process based on practical experience, competence and an examination of real extreme events, e.g. 2001 WTC 9-11 & 2008 Mumbai Attacks, and 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Incident … rather than theory alone.
It is there, not here, that we define Sustainable Human & Social Development … and describe how our Practice is responding to this open, intricate, dynamic, and still evolving concept. The resulting transformation in how frontline services are provided to our Clients/Client Organizations ensures a much more comfortable ‘fit’ to their needs … and a greater level of protection, safety and security for society !
2009-12-16: ‘Chaotic’ is not the only word to describe what is happening right now in Copenhagen ! A few additional parliamentary expletives are required. Is it just me … or is it obvious to everyone … that the Danes could not organize an orgy at an International Golf Tournament ?
What the world urgently needed was an ambitious, legally binding agreement … a Kyoto II Protocol, for want of a better title … to slot into place when the 1st Commitment Period ends in 2012. What we may end up with is an ambiguous ‘political’ agreement … which will be worth approximately 1 cent more than the paper on which it will be scrawled.
There is something definitely rotten in the State of Denmark ! Multiple drafts of the same working document circulating at the same time … backroom meetings away from public scrutiny … greedy developed countries trying to avoid responsibility and action … strutting, self-important NGO’s thinking that they know all the answers … etc., etc … kill any confidence in the process stone dead. These are not the ways of Sustainable Social Partnership.
However … at a far distance from the hustle and bustle … it can be observed that Interesting Side Events are taking place … and Thought Provoking Reports are being presented … before, during and after the main gatherings between the 7th and 18th December 2009:
15th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP-15) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ;
5th Meeting of the Parties (MOP-5) to the Kyoto Protocol.
African Countries are not the only Group having difficulty with what is/is not happening in Copenhagen …
Two recent Discussion Papers from The Energy & Resources Institute (TERI), in India, are worth bringing to your attention. Both raise issues which are not very popular in this part of the world. And … it so happens that Dr. Rajendra K Pachauri – Director-General of TERI … is also Chairman of the WMO-UNEP Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) !
To gain worldwide acceptance – across developed, developing and least developed regions of the world – and to have a reasonable chance of reliable implementation in those disparate regions … mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change, including variability and extremes, must be fully compatible with the concept of Sustainable Human & Social Development. This is clearly elaborated in both the 1992 UNFCCC and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
To be clear among ourselves on this island … Ireland is specifically named (without any qualification), among other Developed Countries … in Annex I and Annex II of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) … and in Annex B of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which is legally binding. The European Union is not mentioned, at all, in either document.
It is of concern to note that although India ratified the 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in October 2007 – TERI (India) has very recently placed a Document (No.1 above) in the public domain, at Copenhagen, which actively forbids content extraction by people with activity limitations for the purposes of equitable accessibility ! Joined-up thinking !?!?
2009-10-31: Missing so far in Ireland … but an essential starting point for any discussion about Disability & Accessibility of the Built Environment in many other countries … is the 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which entered into force, i.e. became an International Legal Instrument, on 3rd May 2008.
This Convention is important because it facilitates access, for a large group of people in all of our communities, to the Rights, i.e. basic needs, of all human beings … which were first elaborated in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Until now, access to Universal Rights has effectively been denied to people with disabilities.
How is Ireland responding to the UN Convention ?
Ireland signed the Convention on 30th March 2007 … but has still not signed the Convention’s Optional Protocol. Furthermore … even though other European Union Member States have proceeded to ratify both the Convention and the Optional Protocol on their own, without waiting for all Member States to act in unison … Ireland has not ratified either. Why is that ???
On the positive side … and at the time of writing …
143 countries, including Ireland, have signed the Convention ;
87 other countries have signed the Optional Protocol ;
71 other countries have ratified the Convention ;
45 other countries have ratified the Optional Protocol.
Click the Link above to read/download PDF File (215 Kb)
With regard to Accessibility … refer, initially and directly, to Preamble Paragraph (g) and Articles 9 & 11 of the Convention.
[As a matter of routine in all of our work, I prefer to go beyond the scope of the 2006 Disability Rights Convention … and to consider Accessibility for All, i.e. including People with Activity Limitations (2001 WHO ICF), to the Human Environment.]
Accessibility Implementation in Ireland, and Toilet Facilities
How more basic can you get in every day life and living ?
The WC Cubicle shown in Diagram 13 of the existing Technical Guidance Document M does not work … a black and white / open and shut case. It has not worked for a long, long time. It is not ‘accessible’. Should this come as a sudden surprise to anybody ? No.
That toilet arrangement dates back to guidance documentation published by the Irish National Rehabilitation Board (NRB) in the early 1980’s. And since that guidance took a long time to produce … we are talking about well before the end of the 1970’s as its true date of origin. I know, because I was there … and I have the T-Shirt !
I am not going to show that Diagram here, because I don’t want to encourage anybody to reproduce it again in a ‘real’ building … for any reason whatsoever !
Nearly 30 years later (!) … the Wheelchair Accessible Unisex WC shown in Diagram 12 of Draft Technical Guidance Document M (2009) is not a significant improvement on the earlier version. In fact, it is a miserable effort ! And … I am not going to show that Diagram here either … for the same reason.
What I would like to present, however, are Figures 43 & 44 from the Draft International Accessibility-for-All Standard ISO 21542. This is the level of accessibility performance which we should all be striving to achieve … as a minimum !
N.B. A standard, large Wash Hand Basin must no longer be considered as an optional extra in a properly fitted out Accessible Toilet Facility.
Please also note the independent water supply, on the wall side of the corner WC, feeding a shower head type outlet which can be turned on or off at the outlet head … or within easy reach of the WC. This is Accessibility-for-All in action !
Many building owners/managers wish to combine an Accessible WC Cubicle with a Baby Change Facility. More space is required, therefore, above and beyond that shown in the Figures above for the Baby Change fittings and associated ‘equipment’.
Without Proper Accessibility Management … Accessibility Performance will rapidly deteriorate … as shown in the above photograph.
Once we have mastered the minimum building accessibility performance required to meet the needs of a single person with an activity limitation … our next priority must be the Social Dimension of Accessibility. Existing Building & Fire Regulations, Standards and Design Guidance are still geared very much towards the single building user. However, for example, if 5 or 6 or 8 wheelchair users decide to use a building’s facilities … not a concept which is off-the-wall (!) … there is almost a complete breakdown and failure in accessibility. This is no longer acceptable !!
2009-10-07: As previously discussed … but deserving much repetition … the 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) became an International Legal Instrument, i.e. entered into force, on 3rd May 2008.
This UN Convention simply aims to ensure that persons with disabilities are able to access human rights on the same basis as everyone else in society. And rights are no more than an elaboration of the responsible basic needs of all human beings.
It is worth recalling that the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights was directly born out of the large-scale death, human misery and environmental destruction of the Second World War in Europe, North Africa, the Middle-East … and throughout Asia and the Pacific.
Human Rights must have – do have – ‘real’ meaning in a civilized society !
Israel signed the UN Disability Rights Convention on 30th March 2007. At the time of writing, it has not yet signed the Convention’s Optional Protocol. Israel has definitely not ratified the Convention or the Optional Protocol.
[To be fair, Ireland is in exactly the same position as Israel. Why am I not surprised ?!?]
With regard to Situations of Risk, e.g. a fire emergency in a building … or Humanitarian Emergencies, e.g. the Gaza Conflict from December 2008 to January 2009 … the language of Article 11 in the UN Convention is very clear and straightforward:
” 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.”
On 3rd April 2009, the President of the UN Human Rights Council established the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict with the mandate “to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after.”
The President appointed Justice Richard Goldstone, former judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa and former Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, to head the Mission. The other three appointed members were:
Professor Christine Chinkin, Professor of International Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science, who was a member of the high-level fact finding mission to Beit Hanoun (2008) ;
Ms. Hina Jilani, Advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and former Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, who was a member of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur (2004) ; and
Colonel Desmond Travers, a former Officer in Ireland’s Defence Forces and member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for International Criminal Investigations.
The Report of the Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict was presented to the Human Rights Council, in Geneva (Switzerland), on 29th September 2009.
The following is a short extract from that Report …
Section A – XVII The Impact of the Blockade and of the Military Operations on the People of Gaza and their Human Rights
I Persons with Disabilities (Paragraphs 1283-1291)
1283 Information provided to the Mission showed that many of those who were injured during the Israeli military operations sustained permanent disabilities owing to the severity of their injuries and/or the lack of adequate and timely medical attention and rehabilitation. Gaza hospitals reportedly had to discharge patients too early so as to handle incoming emergencies. Other cases resulted in amputations or disfigurement. About 30 per cent of patients were expected to have long-term disabilities.
1284 WHO reported that by mid-April 2009 the number of people with different types of permanent disability (e.g. brain injuries, amputations, spinal injuries, hearing deficiencies, mental health problems) as a result of the military operations was not yet known. It reported speculations that there might be some 1000 amputees; but information provided by the WHO office in Gaza and based on estimates by Handicap International indicated that around 200 persons underwent amputations.
1285 While the exact number of people who will suffer permanent disabilities is still unknown, the Mission understands that many persons who sustained traumatic injuries during the conflict still face the risk of permanent disability owing to complications and inadequate follow-up and physical rehabilitation.
1286 The Mission also heard moving accounts of families with disabled relatives whose disability had slowed their evacuation from a dangerous area or who lived with a constant fear that, in an emergency, their families would have to leave them behind because it would be too difficult to evacuate them.
1287 One testimony concerned a person whose electric wheelchair was lost after his house was targeted and destroyed. Since the residents were given very short notice of the impending attack, the wheelchair could not be salvaged and the person had to be taken to safety on a plastic chair carried by four people.
1288 The Mission also heard a testimony concerning a pregnant woman who was instructed by an Israeli soldier to evacuate her home with her children, but to leave behind a mentally disabled child, which she refused to do.
1289 Even in the relative safety of shelters, people with disabilities continued to be exposed to additional hardship, as these shelters were not equipped for their special needs. The Mission heard of the case of a person with a hearing disability who was sheltering in an UNRWA school, but was unable to communicate in sign language or understand what was happening and experienced sheer fear.
1290 Frequent disruptions in the power supply had a severe impact on the medical equipment needed by many people with disabilities. People using wheelchairs had to face additional hurdles when streets started piling up with the rubble from destroyed buildings and infrastructure.
1291 In addition, programmes for people with disabilities had to be closed down during the military operations and rehabilitation services stopped (for instance, organizations providing assistance were unable to access stocks of wheelchairs and other aids). Many social, educational, medical and psychological programmes have not yet fully resumed.