ARE YOU IN
Imagine that Stephen Hawking, Helen Keller, Stevie Wonder, and Beethoven are all employees of your company. A fire alarm sounds and people need to evacuate, but how will these individuals receive emergency information and
navigate your building to safety?
People with disabilities face a number of complications during
a crisis. Those with visual and hearing difficulties may not be
able to adequately receive emergency alerts. Individuals with
mobility issues may require additional assistance to move out of
harm’s way. Anyone with a speech limitation may need alternative ways to communicate, and those with cognitive impairments
can benefit from simplified instructions. Each of these at-risk
occupants is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
While ADA is a broad piece of civil rights legislation, its scope
includes accessibility for any building open to the public. Most
owners are aware it’s their responsibility to remove any struc-
Identify gaps in your building’s accessibility
during an emergency.
tural obstacles that would impede someone from entering and
navigating their building. But you’re also legally obligated to
eliminate any barriers that could undermine a person’s safety
during an emergency.
“The fact of the matter is that people with disabilities have sig-
5 Common Oversights that Undermine Safety
nificantly more difficulty accessing emergency information and
safely traversing the built environment,” says Allan Fraser, senior
building code specialist for NFPA. “Consider that one-fifth of
the population has disabilities that qualify under ADA. Once you
factor in children under 12 and seniors over 65, almost half of the
population has a very real likelihood of needing assistance in an
emergency. We need to empower these individuals with the right
tools to ensure their safety.”
To comply with ADA and other accessibility standards, focus on
provisions that improve notification, wayfinding, and navigation.
Beyond design and construction, ADA considerations can fall
to the back burner when it comes to operations. Unless you have
an occupant with a disability, providing accommodations may
not seem pressing. But this ignores the reality that an emergency
can occur without a moment’s notice and a portion of your