You’re putting disabled delegates’ lives at risk, venues warned

Conference delegates with disabilities could
die because UK venues are not taking their safety seriously.

That’s the stark warning from an expert in compliance
with disability legislation.

He has raised the
alarm after an
international conference on ensuring the safety of disabled people in burning
buildings had to switch venue due to concerns over the safety of disabled
delegates.

The conference, Fire Safety for All, was scheduled to be held in the
Printworks building in the lower courtyard of Dublin Castle.

The ‘state-of-the-art’ building was refurbished and
opened for Ireland’s hosting of the European presidency in 2013.

But conference organisers discovered a raft of problems
with disability access which compromised the safety of delegates.

The faults included poor positioning of the access
ramp, bollards blocking vehicular access to the ramp, deficiencies in the
tactile information for visually impaired people

and no visual fire alarm for hearing-impaired people.

The conference, which will be opened by Sean Sherlock, minister of state at the Department of Foreign Affairs,
has been moved to the nearby Radisson Blu Hotel in Golden Lane.

More than 300 delegates are expected to attend the
conference in April.

CJ Walsh, conference
organiser at Fire Ox International, told the Irish Times: “The problems started on the approach to the
building. The access ramp is a considerable distance from the main entrance.
It’s a principle now that access for all should be through the main entrance,
and there are bollards which would block a taxi from dropping a wheelchair user
at the ramp.”

Arnold
Fewell, boss at AVF Marketing, and a spokesman on disability issues, told CN: “The conference venues that look
after people with disabilities have a long way to go especially in the area of
safety in an emergency. The issues are often common sense but the problem is
the sense is not that common.  I am worried that a disabled conference
guest will die in the event of fire because the procedures at the venues are
insufficient.  Every disabled person must have a Personal Emergency
Evacuation Plan and one of the first things to ask at the booking stage is
about the number of people with disabilities attending and the type of help
they will need.  This should then be discussed and may need staff training
to improve the service.  This venue lost a booking for 300 delegates and I
am really surprised the sales team was not interested in helping.  There
does seem some sort of malaise in conference venues that have not realised that
one disabled person can influence the location of a conference of any size and
the business case must be a significant driver for making conference venues
accessible.”

Do you have a news story for CN? Email: John
Keenan

Paul Colston

Author

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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