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How universities can be more inclusive to disabled individuals during an emergency

31 May 2022

South Africa, Johannesburg, 31 May 2022–  South African universities are a mid-cities city of their own as they encompass a diverse community from students, faculty members’ contracts, and staff traveling in and out, day and night. These universities do attempt to strive for an inclusive culture such that all individuals are catered for. However, in the case of an emergency, impaired individuals within the university space are often vulnerable and in rare situations neglected.

Multi-story buildings such as universities must have a plan in place to support and ensure the safety of the mobility impaired. It is a prerequisite for universities to have a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan for those who might not be able to reach a place of safety in time in the case of an emergency. Therefore, universities should have different emergency tools in place to ensure the safety of the mobility impaired such that they are not susceptible to danger.

Co-founder and Owner of Evac+Chair, Gavin Glass provides insight on the necessary tools required to accommodate the mobility impaired within university spaces.

  1. Public address and voice alarm systems

This system allows for controlled and safe evacuation as messages can be initiated. The system also provides background music and paging system solutions. This tool is useful for those who do not have a hearing impairment. However, those with hearing impairment will be unable to respond to auditory cues thus requiring written instructions and sign language, which can also help those who struggle with speech or language. Therefore, it is important that universities have good emergency evacuation floor plans that can assist impaired individuals.

  1. Good emergency Evacuation floor plans

Emergency evacuation floor plans are specific to the building thus each university will have its own evacuation plan.  This should include an emergency manager who specifically addresses individuals with impairment as he/she will direct whilst coordinating the specific campus-wide responses. The emergency manager can designate primary and alternative Emergency Assembly Points that will help the impaired individuals. However, in instances where the emergency is a fire, alternative exit strategies must take place that ensures safety for all impaired individuals in the university.

“I think having safety officers who understand the necessity to specifically cater to disabled individuals is very important such that they can be safely evacuated”- Co-founder and Owner of Evac+Chair, Gavin Glass

  1. Evacuation chair

Even though universities have elevators, during an emergency, elevators are prohibited, leaving stairs as the approved route. The use of stairs by individuals unable to traverse stairs for an emergency evacuation can be addressed through the use of an emergency stair travel device such as an evacuation chair. An ideal one for university settings is one that is easy to use and lightweight with great comfort. Gavin Glass also adds the importance of having effective evacuation plans in place:

“ As an individual living with mobility impairment, it is important for every building or workplace to create safe spaces and ensure that they have emergency evacuation plans in place that includes people with disabilities or mobility impaired, as they are the most susceptible”– Co-founder and Owner of Evac+Chair, Gavin Glass

Key Takeaways

Universities may want to be more observant of the different disabilities and structure their emergency evacuation routes such that impaired individuals are not neglected. That is why each building within university spaces must have at least evacuation chairs as these chairs cater for mobility impaired and disabled people, good emergency evacuation floor plans with emergency managers that are well equipped or necessary knowledge to evacuate mobility impaired and people with disabilities, as well as voice alarm systems, to name a few.

About Evac+Chair

Evac+Chair, situated in South Africa is a local manufacturer and distributor of the world’s number one Stairway Evacuation Chair. The Evac+Chair is designed to help descend mobility-impaired people/persons with disability downstairs in an emergency evacuation when the lifts for safety reasons, are shut down. With over 20 years of experience, Evac+Chair is the leading specialist in an emergency evacuation, ensuring customers comply fully with health and safety regulations. Evac+Chair services range from providing specialist equipment to delivering specific training and essential maintenance.

The business is a proud brand that promotes the rights of people with disabilities, particularly when it comes to safety. It has been involved in various projects including a collaboration with Ladies On Wheels – an organization that looks into changing the narrative of people with disabilities. The #MySafetyMatters campaign with Ladies On Wheels was aimed to help create awareness about the safety of people with mobility impairments when it comes to multi-story buildings.



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