Inclusive design and fire safety
Updated: Jun 8, 2019
Ensuring disabled people's needs are included.
In order for any of us to thrive, we need somewhere to live that makes us feel safe, secure and comfortable. For many disabled people this means somewhere that has been built or adapted to meet your basic accessibility needs, to enable you to undertake basic daily living activities with independence and dignity and remain safe in emergencies such as a fire.
We have a chronic shortage of accessible housing in our country. I work with campaigning organisations and individuals and currently co-ordinate the Planning and Equality coalition to bring about government action to address this and other such systemic failures in national planning policy.
Parliamentarians have a vital role to play of course, and I have worked closely with MPs and Peers to make compelling arguments and build consensus. For example, recently, I worked with the All Party Parliamentary Group for Disability to deliver a Parliamentary round-table, which formulated questions and recommendations it could pursue with Ministers.
The Grenfell tower disaster is a tragic example of the extent to which planning policy, building and fire safety regulation and their enforcement have failed ordinary people. A number of disabled people died in the fire. It is vital that lessons must be learned and steps taken to ensure that disabled residents’ fire safety is guaranteed in the design and management of all residential buildings in the future.
I have been active in seeking to ensure that the critical questions needed to achieve this are being posed within the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry and government’s ‘Building Safety programme. Working with an MP on the All Party Parliamentary Group for Fire Safety and Rescue, I engaged with the Grenfell inquiry team to ensure that a specific line of enquiry would be adopted - establishing the extent to which consideration was given to the evacuation of disabled and other vulnerable residents.
I was invited to speak on this issue at the British Standards Institutions national fire safety conference in 2018 and subsequently at regional conferences of the Chartered Institute of Housing, Institute of Fire Engineers, as well as the International conference on Fire safety in Tall Buildings. I continue to engage with government and key stakeholder organisations including the BSI, to ensure that this question remains at the heart of any emerging policy.