I’m A Disabled Woman – Get Me Out Of Here!

Last week I was working in Yorkshire, it was a delight to revisit places I’d not been to for many years.  I was last in the area as a student at the University of Leeds in the 1980s, some things haven’t changed, such as the bewildering  inner ring road.  However, I’m thrilled to report that the recent arrival of Harvey Nichols department store and a new lift at the West Yorkshire Playhouse added zest to my visit!  As it happened I was in the area for a few days delivering Inclusive Communication Workshops to PR and media professionals.

Day 1 of my Yorkshire trip passed without incident but day 2 was not so fortunate.  Prior to leaving the comforts of my London office I had been advised by my client  that for day 2 “the disabled access was a bit tricky”, so in readiness for this I gave my PA full instructions on how we might deal with “tricky”.  On arrival there was a wonderful warm welcome and I was guided to my seminar room by a cheery security guard who admitted his failing memory meant he couldn’t recall how I’d get out of the building in an emergency but he’d be right back with the correct information  before I knew he’d even gone. 

The merry and well intended security guard never came back.  At 10.01am, within 1 minute of opening my workshop there was an emergency evacuation and no plan was in place for my own speedy exit.  Implementing my own plan, my PA and I followed the crowd to the stairwell to locate a safe refuge, somewhere to wait whilst the fire marshalls organised assistance.  Having used a lift to travel up from the basement car park neither of us knew which floor we were on, luck was on our side as we were on upper ground and could actually bump down a few steps and follow the crowd outside.

At our assembly point there was no warm welcome for me, instead there was apparent irritation on finding (me) a woman in a wheelchair who’d managed to get in and out by fair or fowl means totally unknown to fire marshalls. 

So what should have happened here?  Disabled people ought to have a personal emergency egress plan in place (PEEP) and it needs to be agreed by the disabled person its been written for as well as those who give the support in an evacuation.  If you want to know more about PEEPs and avoid this happening in your building please email liam@proudlock.rocketshipwp.co.uk.  I’m glad to say that Liam is on the National Register for Access Consultants, so he can also access audit your building at the same time.  If you need help with adaptations and access statements he does that too!