social rights

SFE Work Programme 2017 – Want To Get Involved & Help ??

2017-01-05:  Happy New Year to All and One !

SUSTAINABLE FIRE ENGINEERING (SFE)

The creative, person-centred and ethical fire engineering response – in resilient built or wrought form, and using smart systems – to the intricate, open, dynamic and continually evolving concept of Sustainable Human & Social Development … the many aspects of which must receive balanced and synchronous consideration.

SFE PRIORITY THEMES

 1.  Fire Safety for ALL – Not Just for SOME People.  Nobody Left Behind !

Do Building Designers and Fire Engineers have any understanding of what it feels like to be left behind in a fire emergency … perhaps to die ?

Do Building Designers and Fire Engineers have any understanding of the ‘real’ people who use their buildings … or their ‘real’ needs ?

2.  Firefighter Safety – It’s So Easy to Dramatically Improve Their Safety At A Fire Scene !   A Firefighter’s Protective Clothing and Equipment are not enough !

Conscious awareness of this issue by Building Designers and Fire Engineers is required … and appropriate education/training.

3.  Property Protection – A Minor Code Fire Safety Objective, Insofar As It Is Necessary to Protect the Safety of Building Users … Only !

Fire damage and post-fire reconstruction/refurbishment are a huge waste of resources.  On the other hand, protection of an organization’s image/brand is important … and business continuity is essential.

Heritage Fire Losses cannot be replaced !

To properly protect Society and the interests of a Client/Client Organization … Building Designers and Fire Engineers are ethically bound to clearly explain the limitations of Code and Standard Fire Safety Objectives to their Client/Client Organization.

4.  Environmental Impact – Prevention Is Far, Far Better Than Cure.  Instead of resisting, and erecting ‘professional’ barriers … Spatial Planners, Building Designers and Fire Engineers must begin to properly understand this concept … and act ethically to defend and protect the environment !

Environmental Impact:  Any effect caused by a given activity on the environment, including human health, safety and welfare, flora, fauna, soil, air, water, and especially representative samples of natural ecosystems, climate, landscape and historical monuments or other physical structures, or the interactions among these factors ; it also includes effects on accessibility, cultural heritage or socio-economic conditions resulting from alterations to those factors.

This Planet – Our Common Home – can no longer suffer the scale and extent of total devastation seen after the 2015 Tianjin (China) Regional Fire Disaster !

5.  Building Innovation, People and Their Interaction – Fire Engineers and Firefighters must understand current approaches to more sustainable building design, the ‘real’ people who use the built environment, and the complex interactions between both.

People with Activity Limitations (E) / Personnes à Performances Réduites (F):  Those people, of all ages, who are unable to perform, independently and without aid, basic human activities or tasks – because of a health condition or physical/mental/cognitive/psychological impairment of a permanent or temporary nature.

The above Term, in English and French, includes …

  • people who experience difficulty in walking, with or without a facilitation aid, e.g. stick, crutch, calliper or walking frame ;
  • wheelchair users ;
  • the very young (people under 5 years of age), frail older people, and women in the later stages of pregnancy ;
  • people who are visually and/or hearing impaired ;
  • people who suffer from arthritis, asthma, or a heart condition … or any partial or complete loss of language related abilities, i.e. aphasia … or who have a cognitive impairment disorder, including dementia, amnesia, brain injury, or delirium ;
  • people impaired after the use of alcohol, other ‘social’ drugs e.g. cocaine and heroin, and some medicines … or following exposure to environmental pollution and/or other irresponsible human activity, e.g. war or terrorism ;
  • people who experience a panic attack in a real fire situation or other emergency ;
  • people, including firefighters, who suffer incapacitation as a result of exposure, during a real fire, to smoke and poisonous/toxic substances and/or elevated temperatures.

6.  Sustainable Design & Engineering – Get With The Programme !   The extensive United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Framework Agenda was overwhelmingly agreed and adopted in 2015.

Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA):  A continual evaluation and optimization process – informing initial decision-making, design, shaping activity/product/service realization, useful life, and termination or final disposal – of the interrelated positive and negative social, environmental, economic, institutional, political and legal impacts on balanced and equitable implementation of Sustainable Human & Social Development.

‘Carrots and Sticks’ can only achieve so much.  Spatial Planners, Building Designers and Fire Engineers must – individually and as a group – subscribe to a robust Code of Ethics which is fit for purpose in today’s Human Environment.

2016 Dublin-Code-of-Ethics: Design, Engineering, Construction & Operation of a Safe, Resilient & Sustainable Built Environment for All  (PDF File, 112Kb)

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SUSTAINABLE FIRE ENGINEERING (2017)

New CIB W14: ‘Fire Safety’ Research Working Group VI Reflection Document: ‘Sustainable Fire Engineering Design, Construction & Operation’, which will establish a framework for the future development of Sustainable Fire Engineering.

Preparation of this Document will soon begin, and the following issues will be explored:

  • Conceptual Framework for Sustainable Fire Engineering (SFE), with a necessary accompanying Generic SFE Terminology ;
  • Strategy for Future SFE Development ;
  • Implementation of 2005 & 2008 NIST WTC 9-11 Recommendations ;
  • Fresh, New SFE Research Agenda ;
  • Resilient Implementation of SFE Research Agenda.

Would you like to get involved, and help with this work ?

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PRIORITY THEME 1 – FIRE SAFETY FOR ALL (2017)

The Fire Safety Task Group, chaired by CJ Walsh, of ISO Technical Committee 59, Sub-Committee 16, Working Group 1, has already commenced the revision and further development of the fire safety texts in International Standard ISO 21542 (2011): ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’.

The main effort, initially, has been focused on developing a coherent Fire Safety for All approach … token consideration, or a post-design graft-on, of the fire safety needs of people with activity limitations do not work, and are unacceptable.

Progress with this work can be followed here: http://www.fire-safety-for-all.sustainable-design.ie/iso-21542/

The next ISO Meeting will take place in Madrid, Spain … towards the end of March 2017.

Would you like to get involved ?

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AND … Would you like to discuss any of the above issues ?   Well … Why not join the LinkedIn SFE Group at: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8390667 ??

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2015 Dublin Declaration on ‘Fire Safety for All’ Adopted !

2015-04-20:  After a lengthy, constructive and very interesting discussion which resulted in some important text revisions … on Friday afternoon in Dublin, 10 April 2015, at the ‘Fire Safety for All’ Conference (www.fire-safety-for-all.eu) … all participants voted to adopt, support and promote the 2015 Dublin Declaration on ‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings !

With regard to International Distribution and Promotion of the Declaration … many readers of this Technical Blog belong to varied professional, social and business networks.  I would earnestly ask you to circulate the Declaration widely within those networks, and to actively seek the support of as many organizations and individuals as possible.  This support should be confirmed by means of a simple e-mail message to: fireox@sustainable-design.ie … and I will then add the names of supporters to the Fire Safety for All WebSite (www.fire-safety-for-all.eu).  Copies of the Declaration, in PDF and WORD Formats, can also be downloaded from the WebSite.

Fire-Safety-4-All_smlThis Benchmark Declaration on Accessibility and Fire Safety for People with Activity Limitations … is an essential reference document for all stakeholders and interested parties.  It draws a long-awaited, broad, distinct and stable line in the shifting sands of a rapidly evolving Sustainable Human Environment (social, built, virtual, economic, and institutional) ….

1.   As of 14 July 2015 … 156 Countries, plus the European Union, have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).  Since the Convention became an international legal instrument in 2008, however, the UN CRPD Preamble’s Paragraph (g): ‘mainstreaming disability in sustainable development strategies’ … and Paragraph (v): ‘the importance of accessibility in enabling people to fully enjoy their rights and fundamental freedoms’ … have tended to receive insufficient public attention and scrutiny.  The Dublin Declaration on ‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings and the related CIB W14 Research Working Group 5’s Reflection Document have been drafted with those two paragraphs very much in mind.

2.   Although a situation of serious risk for vulnerable building users … it is not appropriate to deal with Fire Safety for All in Buildings under Article 11: ‘Situations of Risk & Humanitarian Emergencies’ of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities … where situations of grave risk are handled, e.g. Extreme Man-Made Events, Hybrid Disasters, Severe Natural Events, Complex Humanitarian Emergencies … all amid Accelerating Climate Change & Variability.

Take the case of an earthquake, for example … where there will be large-scale serious building damage and many, many building collapses throughout an affected region.  On the other hand, when considering fire safety for all in any building … it is necessary that the building shall remain not just structurally stable, but serviceable.

3.   It is more appropriate, particularly since the publication of International Standard ISO 21542 (2011) with its expanded definition of Building Accessibility, that Fire Safety for All be incorporated into the meaning and implementation of Article 9: ‘Accessibility’ of the CRPD … in exactly the same manner that fire safety is fully integrated into everyday mainstream building use, and mainstream building fire safety codes and standards.

As there are no references, at all, to either ‘fire’ or ‘safety’ in Articles 9 … there is much to be explained and clarified in the 2015 Dublin Declaration on ‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings, if ‘real’ implementation is to be both practical and successful.

An improved and updated definition of Building Accessibility is contained in Principle 3 of the Dublin Declaration …

‘Accessibility of a Building encompasses the complete cycle of independent use, in a dignified manner and on an equal basis with others … and includes the approach, entry and use of a building and its facilities, egress during normal conditions and removal from its vicinity … and, most importantly, safe evacuation during a fire incident to a place of safety which is remote from the building and reached by way of an accessible route.’

4.   The Dublin Declaration contains a Preamble, Principles 1-9 which are headlined below, and an Appendix with many Terms and Definitions …

Principle 1 – A Human Right
Principle 2 – Successful Implementation
Principle 3 – Building Accessibility
Principle 4 – Design for Safe Evacuation
Principle 5 – Accessible EICT’s
Principle 6 – Fire Safety Skills
Principle 7 – Reasonable Spatial Provision
Principle 8 – Building Management
Principle 9 – Firefighters

5.   Existing approaches to Fire Safety, Protection & Evacuation in Buildings for People with Activity Limitations … as described and illustrated in the notable examples of British Standard B.S. 9999 (2008), Singapore’s FSR 7 (2011), and Hong Kong’s Fire Safety Code Addendum (2014) … are technically inadequate, tokenistic, discriminatory, create barriers to social participation, and violate human rights.  Therefore, any further use or recourse to such existing approaches must be terminated immediately !

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2015  DUBLIN  DECLARATION  ON  ‘FIRE SAFETY FOR ALL’  IN  BUILDINGS
A Call to Action and Successful Implementation !

(Adopted in Dublin, 2015-04-10)

Meeting In  Dublin, Ireland … on Thursday and Friday, 9 and 10 April, 2015

In Co-Operation With  the International Council for Research & Innovation in Building & Construction (CIB), Rehabilitation International’s International Commission on Technology & Accessibility (RI-ICTA), the Global Alliance for Accessible Technologies & EnvironmentS (GAATES), and the EUropean Concept for Accessibility Network (EuCAN) ;

Recognizing  the integral and interdependent nature of the natural and human environments (social, built, virtual, economic and institutional) on this small planet Earth, our common home … and the need for harmonized principles to inspire and guide the peoples of the World in the enhancement of a human environment which cherishes the dignity, worth and many abilities of every person ;

Whereas  in the United Nations Charter, the U.N. Member States pledged their respect for, and the protection and observance of, fundamental human and social rights … and have determined to promote social development and better standards of living for all ;

Recalling  the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted on 10th December 1948 … which established a global framework of human and social rights – basic needs and protections – and fundamental freedoms for every person and communal gathering ;

Recalling Also  the Rio de Janeiro Declaration on Sustainable Social Development, Disability & Ageing, adopted on 11th December 2004 … which stressed the importance of the social aspects in Sustainable Human & Social Development ;

Mindful Especially  of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), adopted on 13th December 2006 … the principal aim of which is to ensure that the human environment is sufficiently accessible to permit a vulnerable and major population group in all communities to safely exercise and enjoy the human and social rights and fundamental freedoms described in the 1948 UDHR ;

Working Towards  the achievement of justice, equality of opportunity, social inclusion, active participation and development for every person with an activity limitation in all communities … and recognizing that accessibility of the human environment is an essential prerequisite for the above, and that fire safety for all is a critical life safety component of that accessibility ;

Aware Always  of the universal reality that there is still a strong social stigma associated with disability and, particularly, mental ill-health … that much of the human environment is not accessible for all, and even where it is robustly mandated in law, the quality of that accessibility is poor … and that fire safety guidelines for people with activity limitations in buildings, if they exist, are inadequate and/or tokenistic, and rarely implemented ;

Welcoming the launch of the CIB Working Commission 14: Fire Safety – Research Working Group 5’s Reflection Document: Buildings & ‘Fire Incident Human Behaviour and Abilities’ which presents a practical examination and general overview of fire safety for all

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Addressed to every Country and the European Union – those many Voluntary Parties to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – and the Politicians, Authorities Having Jurisdiction, State Agencies, Professional Bodies & Institutions, Non-Governmental Organizations, Charitable & Private Organizations, etc., based within those separate jurisdictions:

We Declare That The Following Principles Must …

Be carefully studied, successfully implemented, and independently monitored … supported by Benchmarking, reliable Data and Statistics, and the informed use of pertinent Accessibility & Fire Safety Related Performance Indicators …

Principle 1 – A Human Right

Full and effective accessibility of the Human Environment (social, built, virtual, economic and institutional) is a fundamental human and social right, i.e. a basic need, for people with activity limitations – it is an essential prerequisite for the safe exercise and enjoyment of those rights, protections and freedoms set down in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent international rights instruments … and crucially, for their health, participation, inclusion and development in all communities.

Principle 2 – Successful Implementation

Successful accessibility implementation … meaning high quality accessibility performance in the built environment … is reliant upon:

  • A robust legal base mandating accessibility for all and fire safety for all ;
  • Determined political will ;
  • Sufficient public financial resources ;
  • A compassionate and understanding bureaucracy at all levels ;
  • Competent … meaning duly educated, trained and experienced in accessibility and fire safety design … spatial planners, architects, structural engineers, fire engineers, quantity surveyors, technical controllers, industrial designers, building managers, and people at all levels in construction organizations ;
  • Independent monitoring of accessibility and fire safety performance ;
  • Innovative, well-designed accessibility and fire safety related products and systems which can be shown to be ‘fit for their intended use’.

Principle 3 – Building Accessibility

Accessibility of a Building encompasses the complete cycle of independent use, in a dignified manner and on an equal basis with others … and includes the approach, entry and use of a building and its facilities, egress during normal conditions and removal from its vicinity … and, most importantly, safe evacuation during a fire incident to a place of safety which is remote from the building and reached by way of an accessible route.

Principle 4 – Design for Safe Evacuation

Accessibility design criteria must be infused into all of the practical, day-to-day work of building designers and, especially, in the development of project-specific fire engineering design objectives … and be applied from the initial stages of building design, through to the construction and reliable life cycle operation of vertical and horizontal fire evacuation routes facilitating contraflow, areas of rescue assistance, fire safety related signage, controls and fittings, fire prevention and protection measures, fire safety management procedures, routes to and locations of places of safety, etc., etc.
• Evacuation way finding in buildings must be intuitive and obvious ;
• 3 Keywords for building designers must be: reality – reliability – redundancy.

Principle 5 – Accessible EICT’s

Electronic, information and communication technologies are ubiquitous in today’s complex built and virtual environments.  During a real fire incident in a building, they serve a function which is critical for the safety of all building users and firefighters, property protection, minimizing environmental damage and harm, and sustainability. For that reason, they must have a control and/or user interface which is accessible for all.

Principle 6 – Fire Safety Skills

People with activity limitations who occupy or use a building frequently must be included in all practice fire evacuations, in order to learn the skill of safe independent evacuation to an accessible place of safety remote from the building.  During a real fire incident, evacuation assistance provided by other building users or rescue by firefighters, and the time spent waiting for that assistance or rescue in the building must be kept to an absolute minimum.

People with activity limitations must be actively encouraged to participate in fire safety preparatory planning and regular practices … and, without exception, must be consulted and included in all activities concerning their own evacuation from a building.

Management systems and fire protection measures in buildings are never 100% reliable.  People with activity limitations must, therefore, be actively encouraged to be self-aware in situations of risk, and facilitated in learning the skill of self-protection.

Principle 7 – Reasonable Spatial Provision

Reasonable spatial provision must be allocated in a building for the needs of real users, who vary in the range of their individual behaviour and abilities … and for the real building user population profile which, avoiding discrimination, must reflect a society as a whole.  Concerning fire safety for all and the necessary size, for example, of an area of rescue assistance which adjoins a fire evacuation staircase on every floor in a building … the following indicators, exclusive of extra provision for assistants, must guide the architect and fire engineer in the collaborative design process:

(a)  Minimum reasonable provision for people with disabilities in a building – 10% of design occupant/user population ;

(b)  Minimum reasonable provision for people with activity limitations in a building … 15% of design occupant/user population.

Principle 8 – Building Management

Building managers must ensure that fire safety for all preparatory planning is effective, and that practices are held regularly … before any real fire incident occurs.  And as part of their normal, day-to-day functioning … managers must be fully aware that, without due attention to accessibility-related services, product maintenance and occupant/user welfare policies, the quality of accessibility in a building will rapidly deteriorate.

Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPS) must not be used to limit or restrict access to any part of a building and its facilities.

Principle 9 – Firefighters

Firefighters must be trained to interact with and rescue people with activity limitations from buildings, using procedures and equipment which will not cause injury to either.  Fire services must ensure that they operate such procedures and possess such regularly serviced equipment.

Emergency service organizations must operate reliable systems to notify the fire services of emergency situations, which are accessible for all and useable by the public at all times.

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APPENDIX – Terms & Definitions

Area of Rescue Assistance:  A sufficiently large building space directly adjoining, and visible from, a main vertical evacuation route – robustly and reliably protected from heat, smoke and flame during and after a fire – where people may temporarily wait with confidence for further information, instructions, and evacuation assistance or rescue, without obstructing or interfering with the evacuation travel of other building users.

Contraflow Circulation in a Fire Building:  Emergency access by firefighters or rescue teams into a building and towards a real fire … while building users are still moving away from the fire and evacuating the building.

Evacuation from a Fire Building:  To withdraw, or cause to withdraw, all users from a building which is on fire … in pre-planned and orderly phased movements to an accessible place of safety remote from the building.

Fire Compartmentation:  The division of a building into fire-tight compartments by fire, smoke and heat resisting elements of construction, in order to …
a)  contain an outbreak of fire, including any smoke and heat generated by the fire ;
b)  prevent damage, within the building, to other adjoining compartments and spaces ;
c)  protect a compartment interior from external fire attack, e.g. fire spread across the building’s facade or from an adjacent building ;
d)  minimize adverse, or harmful, environmental impacts outside the building.

Human Health:  A state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

People with Activity Limitations (E) / Personnes à Performances Réduites (F):  Those people, of all ages, who are unable to perform, independently and without aid, basic human activities or tasks – because of a health condition or physical / mental / cognitive / psychological impairment of a permanent or temporary nature.

The above Term includes …

  • wheelchair users ;
  • people who experience difficulty in walking, with or without a facilitation aid, e.g. stick, crutch, calliper or walking frame ;
  • frail, older people ;
  • the very young (people under the age of 5 years) ;
  • people who suffer from arthritis, asthma, or a heart condition ;
  • the visually and/or hearing impaired ;
  • people who have a cognitive impairment disorder, including dementia, amnesia, brain injury, or delirium ;
  • women in the later stages of pregnancy ;
  • people impaired following the use of alcohol, other ‘social’ drugs e.g. cocaine and heroin, and some medicines ;
  • people who suffer any partial or complete loss of language related abilities, i.e. aphasia ;
  • people impaired following exposure to environmental pollution and/or other irresponsible human activities, e.g. war and terrorism ;

and …

  • people who experience a panic attack in a real fire situation or other emergency ;
  • people, including firefighters, who suffer incapacitation as a result of exposure, during a real fire, to smoke and poisonous or toxic substances, and/or elevated temperatures.

Place of Safety:
•  Any accessible location beyond a perimeter which is [100] metres from the fire building or a distance of [10] times the height of such building, whichever is the greater ;   and
•  Where necessary triage can safely be rendered … and from where effective medical care and supervision can be organized and provided within one hour of injury (the ‘golden hour’) ;   and
•  Where people can be identified.

Note: If there is a risk of an explosion associated with a fire – multiply the numbers in square brackets above by 4.

Progressive Damage in Fire / Fire-Induced Progressive Damage:  The sequential growth and intensification of structural deformation and displacement, beyond fire engineering design parameters, and the eventual failure of elements of construction in a building – during a fire and the ‘cooling phase’ afterwards – which, if unchecked, will result in disproportionate damage, and may lead to total building collapse.

Note: Fire-induced progressive damage may commence long before there is any breach in the integrity of a fire compartment’s boundaries.

Real Fire:  A fire which develops in a building and is influenced by such factors as the type of building and its occupancy (numbers, abilities and activities) ;  the combustible content (fire load) ;  the ventilation, geometry and thermal properties of the fire compartment or building space (should no fire compartmentation exist) ;  the fire suppression systems in the building, and the actions of firefighters.

Skill:  The ability of a person – resulting from proper training and regular practice – to carry out complex, well-organized patterns of behaviour efficiently and adaptively, in order to achieve some end or goal.

Social Environment:  The complex network of real and virtual human interaction – at a communal or larger group level – which operates for reasons of tradition, culture, business, pleasure, information exchange, institutional organization, legal procedure, governance, human betterment, social progress and spiritual enlightenment, etc.

Social Rights:  Rights to which an individual person is legally entitled, e.g. the right to free elementary education (Art.26(1), UDHR), but which are only exercised in a social context with other people, and with the active support of a competent legal authority, e.g. a Nation State.

Social Wellbeing:  A general condition – in a community, society or culture – of health, happiness, creativity, responsible fulfilment, and sustainable development.

Virtual Environment:  A designed environment, electronically generated from within the built environment, which may have the appearance, form, functionality and impact – to the person perceiving and actually experiencing it – of a real, imagined and/or utopian world.

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Global Event: ‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings – Reboot & Reload !

2014-12-09:  FireOx International, the Fire Engineering Division of Sustainable Design International Ltd., is very pleased and proud to present the following Global CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) Event

Fire Safety for All !9 & 10 April 2015 – Dublin Castle, Ireland

‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings – Reboot & Reload !
[ www.fire-safety-for-all.eu ]

Co-Sponsored by CIB & RI-ICTA
Kindly supported by Fáilte Ireland

This will not be a polite gathering intended just for an Irish audience, or even for Europeans … this is a Global Event – a catalyst for Substantive Social Transformation everywhere !

Within the professional discipline of Fire Engineering … either a building is Fire Safe or it is not ;  the design philosophy of the fire engineer is irrelevant.  Similarly, now, we must begin to think and act in the simple terms of a building either being Accessible for All, or not.  And if the building is accessible for all, does it tick all of the right accessibility boxes well, i.e. effectively ?

While building fire safety codes and standards exist in almost every country … guidelines relating to the Fire Safety of People with Activity Limitations – IF those guidelines exist at all – are technically inadequate, entirely tokenistic, blatantly discriminatory, and rarely implemented.

This is a very significant obstacle to Effective Building Accessibility everywhere !!

Accessibility is now understood to mean the full cycle of independent building use, in an equitable and dignified manner … and this term includes the approach, entry to and use of a building, egress during normal conditions and removal from the vicinity of the building … and, most importantly, evacuation during a fire incident to a ‘place of safety’ which is remote from the building.  (ISO 21542 : 2011)

Cogently mandated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) … the CRPD’s principal aim is to ensure that the Built, Social, Economic and Virtual Environments are sufficiently ‘accessible’ to permit a vulnerable and major(!) population group in all of our societies to enjoy the fundamental freedoms and human rights described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

Refer to Preamble Paragraph (g) in the UN Convention …

‘ Emphasizing the importance of mainstreaming disability issues as an integral part of relevant strategies of sustainable development,’

and to … Article 3 (General Principles), Article 9 (Accessibility), Article 11 (Situations of Risk & Humanitarian Emergencies), Article 19 (Living Independently & Being Included in the Community), Article 20 (Personal Mobility), Article 24 (Education), Article 27 (Work & Employment), Article 31 (Statistics & Data Collection), Article 32 (International Co-Operation), and Article 33 (National Implementation & Monitoring).

The focus of this event, therefore, is Real Accessibility.  In other words, Effective Accessibility for People with Activity Limitations (which includes people with disabilities, and children under the age of 5 years, frail older people, women in the later stages of pregnancy, and people with health conditions, etc.) … an accessibility which actually works well for all potential building users.  And it is appropriate also, now, to introduce the concept of Monitoring and Targeting this ‘real’ accessibility … independently, i.e. by 3rd Parties !

It is time to Reboot this ridiculous, professionally negligent and obsolete old system … Reload with innovative and practical building design, construction, management and personal self-protection solutions … and Implement !

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FireOx ‘Fire Safety for All’ Matrix – Revised & Updated

2014-10-17:  Within the professional discipline of Fire Engineering … either a building is ‘fire safe’, or it is not.  The Design Philosophy of the Fire Engineer is irrelevant.  In fact, nearly everybody involved with fire safety in buildings would collapse in a fit of laughter at the delusional notion that a design philosophy was relevant.  People’s lives are at stake !

Similarly, now, we must begin to think and act in the simple terms of a building either being ‘accessible’, or not.  At stake, this time, is the quality of life and living for very many vulnerable people in all of our societies.

Accessibility for All, according to International Standard ISO 21542 (2011) … includes the approach, entry to and use of a building, egress during normal conditions and removal from the vicinity of the building … and, most importantly, evacuation during a fire incident to a ‘place of safety’ which is remote from the building.

Concerning that All above … FireOx International’s ‘Fire Safety for All’ Matrix shows who exactly we are talking about … and who must be considered in the development of a Fire Safety Strategy for every building … not just some buildings !

This is not just good design practice … it is also mandated in International Human Rights Law.

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Colour image showing FireOx International's 'Fire Safety for All' Matrix.  Revised and Updated in October 2014.  FireOx International is the Fire Engineering Division of Sustainable Design International Ltd. (Ireland, Italy & Turkey).  For a clearer and sharper print, download the PDF File below.  Matrix developed by CJ Walsh.  Latest revision suggested by Jo Kwan (Hong Kong).

Colour image showing FireOx International’s ‘Fire Safety for All’ Matrix.  Revised and Updated on 24 October 2014.  FireOx International is the Fire Engineering Division of Sustainable Design International Ltd. (Ireland, Italy & Turkey).  For a clearer and sharper print, download the PDF File below.  Matrix developed by CJ Walsh.  Latest revision suggested by Jo Kwan (Hong Kong).

FireOx International’s ‘Fire Safety for All’ Matrix (2014) – PDF File, 25 Kb

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Building Fire Safety Codes and Standards exist in almost every country.  However – IF they exist at all – those guidelines relating to the Fire Safety of People with Activity Limitations are technically inadequate, entirely tokenistic and/or blatantly discriminatory.

Refer to my previous post … BS 9999:2008 & BS 8300:2009 – Sleepwalking into Problems ?

It is time to Reboot this ridiculous, professionally negligent and obsolete old system … Reload with innovative and practical building design, construction, management and personal self-protection solutions … and Implement !

Fire Safety for All !

2015 ‘Fire Safety for All’ Global CSR Event – Dublin, 9 & 10 April

Register Now !

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Model Disability Policy Statement for Educational Establishments

2014-04-21:  Notwithstanding the, by now, well-established existence of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD), International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’, a host of other national accessibility standards, and a plethora of accessibility design guidance materials … not every ‘real’ site, or building, or built environment, situation is covered.  It would be physically impossible.

Unless it is fixed in your mind … or, more importantly, in the ‘group-thinking’ of an organization … that Accessibility-for-All should be, for example, both independent (i.e. it is not necessary for a person to have an assistant) and inclusive (i.e. friends can do things together and no special deal is made about accessibility for one person) … it can be very difficult to emerge from beneath the weight of those documents referred to above … and to apply important disability-related principles flexibly and adaptively in the real world.

At a recent meeting with some teachers in an Irish school (which shall remain nameless) … I advised that a very good and positive start can be made by discussing together and agreeing on a Disability Policy Statement, which will help to guide future actions.  More steps are required, of course, but those will come later.

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Model Disability Policy Statement for Educational Establishments

Insofar as it relates to the educational activities of

Name of School/College/University/Institute

and its relationships in the wider local community …

We recognise and respect the rights of people with activity limitations:

  • to lead a fulfilling life – autonomously, independently, and with dignity ;
  • to integrate into the civil, political, economic, social, cultural and educational mainstream ;    and
  • to participate in the general life of the wider local community on a basis of equal opportunity with everyone else.

Good Education is an Important Key to Social Inclusion

In order to ensure your autonomy and independence, your civil, political, economic, social, cultural and educational integration, and your active participation in the general life of the wider local community – the principle of equal opportunity shall not prevent the adoption or maintenance of services, systems and policies providing for your support or assistance within this establishment.

[ Discussed and Agreed by the School/College/University/Institute Management Board on …… ]

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Recent Fatal Fire at a Disabled Workshop in SW Germany

2012-11-28:  On Monday last, 26 November 2012 … Fire broke out at a Sheltered Workshop for People with Activity Limitations, located in the small municipality of  Titisee-Neustadt, south-western Germany … not too far from the borders of France and Switzerland.  It was approximately 14.00 hrs in the afternoon … in broad daylight.

German news reports put the death toll at 14 People, including 1 Carer … with 10 People injured.

News reports also state that it took 2 Hours for Firefighters to bring this incident under control.  At the time that Photograph 1, below, was taken … smoke had spread throughout a major part of the building.

Viewers should look closely at the top of the external staircase … then, ask yourselves how any person with an activity limitation can be safely rescued, or assisted to evacuate, by means of a ladder (obscured, at the end of the building on the left) … and, finally, notice the positioning of fire hoses on the ground and on the staircase … some of the many issues which have been discussed extensively here before …

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

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2005 NIST(USA) Final Report on 9-11 World Trade Center 1 & 2 Tower Collapses

–  Recommendation  #17b  –

 To the degree possible, people with activity limitations should be provided with a means for self-evacuation in the event of a building emergency.  Current strategies (and law) generally require these people to shelter-in-place and await assistance.  New procedures, which provide redundancy in the event that the fire warden system or co-worker assistance (e.g. the buddy system) fail, should consider full building evacuation, and may include use of fire-protected and structurally hardened elevators, motorized evacuation technology, and dedicated communication technologies.

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At the heart of the impressive show of fire fighting equipment and technology … and the usual reassuring statements by local officials and other people in authority after the event … there is an equally impressive lie …

Photograph by Patrick Seeger(dpa). Click to enlarge.

Photograph by Patrick Seeger(dpa). Click to enlarge.

Current Building Codes and Regulations, Fire Safety Standards, Building Design Practices, and Building Management Procedures … do not seriously consider the safety of People with Activity Limitations … not properly – not adequately – not even INadequately.  Tokenism is the best offer available in just a few European countries.

Photograph by Patrick Seeger(dpa). Click to enlarge.

Photograph by Patrick Seeger(dpa). Click to enlarge.

According to Spiegel OnLine International …

The rescue was difficult because some people panicked, said Local Fire Chief Alexander Widmaier.  “We are dealing here with people who naturally do not respond rationally”, he said.

IF this is an accurate news report, and bearing in mind that it is also a translation … I SAY …

Let us be generous and kind … Local Fire Chief Alexander Widmaier has NO awareness or understanding of People with Activity Limitations and the daily challenges they face in moving around and using a built environment which is inaccessible and unsafe.

According to AFP OnLine …

Gotthard Benitz, of the Titisee-Neustadt fire service, told AFP earlier that the fire began on the ground floor of the building which also had a basement and an upper floor.

“The victims were all on the same floor where the fire was”, he said adding this was the only area to have sustained fire damage and the stairwell had remained smoke-free meaning those on the other two floors had been able to use it.

He also said firefighters were prepared for dealing with an emergency at the workshop as practice fire alarms were regularly carried out there, with the last one having been last year.

The head of Caritas in Germany, Peter Neher, told ZDF public television that emergency practice drills were done regularly.

IF this is an accurate news report, and bearing in mind that it is also a translation … I SAY …

Gotthard Benitz should also look at the top of the external staircase in Photograph 1 above.  IF there are no circulation hazards, e.g. ice, or obstacles, e.g. fire hoses … able-bodied people can easily go up or down a staircase … people who use wheelchairs or other mobility-aid devices cannot.

In their respective positions of responsibility … Gotthard Benitz and Peter Neher should both understand that all building occupants must be facilitated in acquiring the skill of evacuation to a ‘place of safety’, by way of a safe and accessible route.  An emergency practice drill, although carried out regularly once a year … is ENTIRELY inadequate … and will achieve Very Little.

Skill:  The ability of a person – resulting from training and regular practice – to carry out complex, well-organized patterns of behaviour efficiently and adaptively, in order to achieve some end or goal.

Standard fire evacuation training and practice drill procedures must be adapted to the individual-specific abilities of People with Activity Limitations.

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BUT … the new International Standard ISO 21542 is a very small step in the right direction.  See yesterday’s post.

This situation will only improve to a significant degree, however, when People with Activity Limitations, and their Representative Organizations, begin to act decisively, in unison, and with serious intent …

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Self-Protection from Fire in Buildings – Personal Check List for People with Activity Limitations

1.     Upgrade ‘My’ understanding of Accessibility

Ease of independent approach, entry, egress, evacuation and/or use of a building and its services and facilities, by all of the building’s potential users – with an assurance of individual Health, Safety and Welfare during the course of those activities ;

2.     Be assertive (not aggressive) with regard to ‘My’ own self-protection in emergency situations ;

3.     Concerning ‘My’ safety … demand that Building Management actively engages in Meaningful Consultation – and receives your Informed Consent ;

4.     Become familiar with the Fire Defence Plan for the building, and know ‘My’ part well ;

5.     Practice – practice – practice … become skilled in evacuation to a Place of Safety ;

6.     Become involved, and participate directly in the Building’s Safety Procedures.

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Self-Protection from Fire in Buildings  – Must-Do List for Representative Organizations & Groups

1.     Upgrade ‘Our’ understanding of Accessibility in a Social Context, its Current Vocabulary, and its Complexity … groups of individuals wish to socialize together … this is now, afterall, a recognised human and social right !

Ease of independent approach, entry, egress, evacuation and/or use of a building and its services and facilities, by all of the building’s potential users – with an assurance of individual Health, Safety and Welfare, and group Wellbeing, during the course of those activities ;

2.     Be assertive (and aggressive) with regard to the availability of proper Data and Statistics – we must clearly identify ‘Our’ problem with the many restrictions placed on our participation in local communities ;

3.     Produce a working statement of an Individual’s Rights – on 1 Page (!) ;

4.     Issue clear guidelines on Reliable Advocacy ;

5.     Become involved, and participate directly in the improvement of Building Codes and Regulations, Fire Safety Standards, Building Design Practices, and Building Management Procedures ;

6.      Demand resources to Monitor ‘Effective’ Implementation … and Target Relevant and ‘Practical’ Research.

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END

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New Legal & Normative Environment for Accessibility in Europe

2012-11-27:  On Friday last, 23 November 2012, I had the great pleasure of being invited to attend the 2012 IIEA/TEPSA Irish EU Presidency Conference, which was held in Dublin Castle, Ireland.  The Programme was interesting and diverse … but lacked a vital element …

  • Session 1 – Priorities of the Irish EU Presidency ;
  • Session 2 – Economic Governance & Economic Monetary Union ;
  • Session 3 – Innovation & the Digital/Energy Interface ;
  • Session 4 – The European Union in the World.

[ IIEA – Institute of International & European Affairs ] + [ TEPSA – Trans-European Policy Studies Association ]

Colour photograph showing Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore delivering a Keynote Address, from the podium, at the 2012 Dublin IIEA/TEPSA Irish EU Presidency Conference. In the Chair - looking very pensive - is Mr. Dáithí O'Ceallaigh, Director General of the IIEA. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-11-23. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore delivering a Keynote Address, from the podium, at the 2012 Dublin IIEA/TEPSA Irish EU Presidency Conference. In the Chair – looking very pensive – is Mr. Dáithí O’Ceallaigh, Director General of the IIEA. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-11-23. Click to enlarge.

Although the serious problem of Youth Unemployment in Europe was discussed (from an economic perspective), and the Ageing Society received a passing mention … there was hardly any consideration of EU Citizenship and the many other Soft Social Issues … with, surprise-surprise, no reference at all to the Weak and Vulnerable Groups of People in all of our countries.

Furthermore … I don’t know whether they were invited to the Dublin EU Presidency Conference … and if they were, whether they couldn’t attend … but I did not notice a significant presence of representatives from Irish Disability Organizations at this important event.

Conference Delegates needed to hear that the European Union is for All of its People … not just its Citizens !   That distinction is critical.

Colour photograph showing Delegates at the 2012 IIEA/TEPSA Irish EU Presidency Conference in Dublin - described by one journalist as "a heavyweight audience of policymakers and 'leading thinkers' " - chatting over morning coffee and tea. Notice the lethal-looking metal handrail extensions in the foreground. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-11-23. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing Delegates at the 2012 IIEA/TEPSA Irish EU Presidency Conference in Dublin – described by one journalist as “a heavyweight audience of policymakers and ‘leading thinkers’ ” – chatting over morning coffee and tea. Notice the lethal-looking metal handrail extensions in the foreground. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-11-23. Click to enlarge.

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Which sets the scene, in an odd way, for the following e-mail message I recently sent through the EUropean Concept for Accessibility Network (EuCAN) … a network of European Accessibility Experts, co-ordinated from Luxembourg by Mr. Silvio Sagramola …

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To EuCAN Network Members:

Silvio,

With some concern, I have been following the discussion about Access Officers.

Allow me to explain.

Once upon a time … at a meeting of the EuCAN Management Team in Luxembourg … there was an intense discussion about ‘Accessibility & Human Rights’.  Now that the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has been adopted, entered into force, and been ratified by the European Union and many, though not all, of the EU Member States … I hope that this issue has finally been resolved.

Therefore … the immediate, Pan-European Accessibility Agenda can be found in Articles 9, 11 and 19 of the Convention … all within the context of Preamble Paragraph (g).

BUT … is any organization yet working with this Agenda … and, most importantly, implementing it properly ?

AND … let us not forget that Independent Mechanisms to Monitor Implementation are an essential component of the same Agenda (Article 33.2) … at European, national, and sub-national levels, right down to individual public and private organizations !

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Accessibility has been clearly specified in the new International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’ as including … ‘access to buildings, circulation within buildings and their use, egress from buildings in the normal course of events, and evacuation in the event of an emergency‘.

The flawed framework, founded on the term ‘Access’ alone, is now obsolete.  And, therefore, the Access Officer is no more.  Let us all finally agree that the responsible individual, whether he or she, is an Accessibility Officer !

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If the EuCAN Network is to have a useful and constructive future, this is the New Legal & Normative Environment which it must confront, carefully examine … and, in support of which, it should produce design guidance, decision-making computer software tools, etc., etc … for the practical purpose of ‘real’ implementation.

AND … any proposed EuCAN Programme of Action (2013-2015) should also include a review and updating of past publications.

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Some Points To Note:

1.     Although the European Union ratified the U.N. CRPD on 23 December 2010 … European Commissioner Viviane Reding (Justice, Fundamental Rights & Citizenship) stated at a Dublin Meeting, in answer to my direct question, that some Member States are offering stiff resistance to integration of the Convention into the EU System.  Why isn’t the European Disability Forum on top of this ?   But also … the European Union has not yet either signed, or ratified, the Convention’s Optional Protocol.

2.     At the time of writing … Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Norway (EEA) … have still not ratified the Convention.  Why not ?   Where is the outcry from disability organizations in those countries ??

In Ireland, unfortunately, national decision-makers would rather commit ritual suicide outside government buildings than acknowledge an individual citizen’s human rights.  And, if Ireland ever does ratify the Convention, proper implementation will be very problematic.

Am I exaggerating ?   Not at all … just look at how Ireland has implemented the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which it ratified back in September 1992.

3.     In EU Member States that have ratified the U.N. CRPD … the Convention is not always being implemented properly.

Towards the end of the following Blog Post … http://www.cjwalsh.ie/2011/10/public-procurement-design-for-all-its-crunch-time-folks/ … I have discussed the Concluding Observations on the Initial Report of Spain (September 2011 Session of the U.N. Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities).

4.     Preamble Paragraph (g) of the U.N. CRPD is even more important, now, for this reason … the United Nations has started to develop the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.  It is essential to fully integrate Ability/Disability Issues into this process.  Making a submission to the U.N. could be an interesting task for EuCAN.

5.     The Fire Safety Texts contained in ISO 21542 are essentially just a bare minimum … and they are mostly in the form of recommendations (‘should’), not requirements (‘shall’).  There is a great need to add extra detail to those texts … and to convert them into requirements.  Making a series of submissions to the International Standards Organization (ISO) should be a task for EuCAN.

Regards.

C.J. Walsh, Sustainable Design International Ltd. – Ireland, Italy & Turkey.

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EUropean Concept for Accessibility (EuCAN) – Extract from 2001 Mission Statement

The fundamental basis of a European philosophy for accessibility is the recognition, acceptance and fostering – at all levels in society – of the rights of all human beings, including people with activity limitations … in an ensured context of high human health, safety, comfort and environmental protection.  Accessibility for All is an essential attribute of a ‘person-centred’, sustainable built environment.

An Effectively Accessible Europe for All

Now that a Comprehensive Legal and Normative Environment for Accessibility has finally been created in Europe … there is a vital need for EuCAN for serve … and a vital role for EuCAN to play.

However … Concerted Action must be directed at Implementation … Effective Implementation … ‘real’ accessibility which works.

Enough talk – Enough tokenism !!

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The Future of Disability Policy in Ireland – Recent SDI Submission

2011-11-06 …

Some time ago … Irish Minister of State at the Department of Health & Children, Ms. Kathleen Lynch T.D., released to the public a report on the future policy of disability in Ireland.  The report was drawn up by an Expert Reference Group at the request of the Department.  Submissions were sought from the public and interested groups on this document, entitled ‘Report of Disability Policy Review’.

The Report, and other ‘supporting’ information, can be downloaded from the Department’s WebSite at … http://www.dohc.ie/consultations/

Submissions had to be received by the Department, at the latest, on Friday 4 November 2011.

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As you read through the SDI Submission below, please also note well that on the 2 Web Pages of the Department’s Site …

  • Background to Report of Disability Policy Review ;   and
  • Summary of Key Proposals from The Review of Disability Policy ;

… there is not one single mention of the word ‘rights’ !

In a post back on 17 February 2009 … concerning another disability matter, i.e. the complete lack of ‘accessible’ emergency services for people with a hearing impairment in our country, I wrote:

‘ Irish Politicians and Senior Civil Servants would all rather commit ritual suicide on Merrion Street (outside the Dáil and Government Buildings) than give people with disabilities their rights.’

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The following is the recent Submission made by Sustainable Design International … and submitted to the Department of Health & Children on 4 November 2011 …

Re: The Future of Disability Policy in Ireland – SDI Submission

Ms. Kathleen Lynch T.D., Minister of Statec/o Office for Disability & Mental Health, Department of Health & Children, Hawkins House, Dublin 2.

Dear Minister,

It is reassuring to see that the following two documents, available for download from the Department’s WebSite, contain extensive references to Human Rights and, particularly, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities …

     –  Report of Disability Policy Review – Prepared by Ms. Fiona Keogh PhD, on behalf of the Expert Reference Group on Disability Policy (October 2011) ;

     –  Report on Public Consultation: Efficiency & Effectiveness of Disability Services in Ireland – Review of Disability Services under the Value for Money & Policy Review Initiative 2009-2011 (December 2010).

And yet … the following document, also available for download from the Department’s WebSite, does not make one single reference to Human Rights …

     –  Summary of Key Proposals from The Review of Disability Policy (October 2011).

It is a matter of deep concern how such a fundamental issue can suddenly, and with malign intent, be erased from view … and understanding !

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Whether or not Ireland has ratified the United Nations 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is no longer relevant.

The European Union (EU), having its own legal personality after the Lisbon Treaty, did ratify the UN Convention … back on 23 December 2010.

Therefore, Ireland is now bound by a Duty of Loyal Co-Operation, deriving from Article 4.3 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU).

This Duty embraces two sets of obligations:  1) All EU Member States shall take appropriate measures, whether general or particular, to ensure fulfilment of the obligations arising out of the EU Treaties or resulting from action taken by the EU Institutions;  and 2) All EU Member States shall facilitate the achievement of the European Union’s tasks, and shall abstain from any measure which could jeopardise the attainment of the Union’s objectives.

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In complete contrast to Ireland’s Current Disability PolicyFuture Disability Policy must now be re-drafted, and implemented, in a manner where:

a)  Explicit reference is made, throughout, to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities … and to the fact that there is now a robust rights-based foundation to Ireland’s National Disability Policy ;

and

b)  There is a full, comprehensive and correct response to all of the contents of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

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I would specifically draw your attention to Articles 31 & 33 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities … which together mandate that implementation is taken seriously … that it is competent and effective … and, most importantly, that independent monitoring and verification is a fundamental part of the whole policy development and implementation process.

In closing, may I add that the treatment of ‘Accessibility’ in all of the documents is careless, and disgracefully inadequate !!

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Sustainable Design International  is a professional and multi-disciplinary design, engineering, research and consultancy practice – specializing in the theory and implementation of a Sustainable Human Environment (social – built – virtual – economic).

Our Organization possesses a unique level of expertise on all aspects of Human Environment Accessibility for People with Activity Limitations.

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Yours,

C. J. Walsh,  Consultant Architect, Fire Engineer & Technical Controller.

Managing Director, Sustainable Design International Ltd. – Ireland & Italy.  Sürdürülebilir Tasarım Tic.Ltd.Şti. – Turkey.

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Public Procurement & ‘Design for All’ – It’s Crunch Time, Folks !

2011-10-12 & 2011-10-17:  Close your eyes … and imagine, for a split second, the value and material extent of all the Public Procurement Contracts being tendered for and awarded each week, throughout Europe.  ‘Enormous’ is the only appropriate word which must spring to your mind !   If you don’t believe me, check out the statistics for yourself !!   And that value is going to keep increasing !!!

The European Commission has recently proposed that suitable instruments be developed which will permit the operation of the Accessibility / Design for All Requirements in EU Public Procurement Directives to commence, with full effect.  This process is proving to be problematic … and it is certainly not as open and transparent as it should be.

Leaving aside the utilities sectors (water, energy, transport and postal services) … recall that EU Directive 2004/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 31 March 2004, on the Co-Ordination of Procedures for the Award of Public Works Contracts, Public Supply Contracts and Public Service Contracts had to be implemented, at national level in all of the EU Member States, no later than 31 January 2006.  This Directive was amended, in a minor way, by Directives 2005/51/EC and 2005/75/EC.  In spite of these amendments, 31 January 2006 remained the target date for national implementation.

[ Ireland’s national implementing legislation … European Communities (Award of Public Authorities’ Contracts) Regulations 2006 … came into operation on 22 June 2006.]

In addition, each Member State had to ensure that Directive 2004/18/EC was properly implemented by using effective, available and transparent Monitoring Mechanisms.

With regard to specific rules governing specifications and contract documents … Article 23.1 of Directive 2004/18/EC stated, and still does state …

‘ The technical specifications as defined in point 1 of Annex VI shall be set out in the contract documentation, such as contract notices, contract documents or additional documents.  Whenever possible these technical specifications should be defined so as to take into account accessibility criteria for people with disabilities or design for all users.’

Not the strongest possible language to encourage ‘accessibility’ … there’s nothing quite like a shall to concentrate minds !

[ However, in Ireland … with regard to the same specific rules governing specifications and contract documents … Section 23 (2) of the European Communities (Award of Public Authorities’ Contracts) Regulations 2006 states …

‘ In awarding a public contract, a contracting authority shall, as far as practicable, ensure that the technical specifications for the contract take account of the need to prescribe accessibility criteria for all persons who are likely to use the relevant works, products or service, particularly those who have disabilities.’ ]

As already discussed in my post, dated 2 November 2010 … many people in the European Union Institutions would prefer to steer completely away from the Social Aspects of Sustainable Human and Social Development … fuzzy areas, not capable of easy quantification … leaving small, peripheral groups in the Institutions (neither well connected to the mainstream, nor fully aware of the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of that mainstream) to look after the Social Aspects.

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Public Procurement in the European Union (EU)

The Award of Public Works Contracts, Public Supply Contracts and Public Service Contracts concluded in the EU Member States on behalf of State, Regional or Local Authorities and other bodies governed by public law entities, is subject to the respect of Principles enshrined in the EU Treaties and, in particular, to …

  • the principle of freedom of movement of goods ;
  • the principle of freedom of establishment ;
  • the principle of freedom to provide services ;   and
  • the principles deriving therefrom, such as the principle of equal treatment, the principle of non-discrimination, the principle of mutual recognition, the principle of proportionality and the principle of transparency.

For Public Contracts Above A Certain Value … it has been deemed necessary to draw up provisions of Community Co-Ordination of National Procedures for the award of such contracts, which are based on these principles so as to ensure the effects of them and to guarantee the opening-up of public procurement to competition.

– Adapted from Preamble Paragraph #2, EU Directive 2004/18/EC

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Is Europe Serious about Implementing the Public Procurement Accessibility / Design for All Requirements ?

Before looking at how Accessibility / Design for All is being handled within the fast evolving European Public Procurement Framework … it is sobering to compare and contrast how DG Environment (ENV), in the European Commission, is promoting and actively supporting Green Public Procurement, i.e. Public Procurement which is environment-friendly … http://ec.europa.eu/environment/gpp/index_en.htm … no messing about there !

If we (speaking as a European) are serious, therefore, about the ‘real’ implementation of Accessibility for All / Design for All / Inclusive Design / Universal Design / Barrier-Free Design in the Built Environment … it is of fundamental importance that an easily assimilated Standard (as defined in Paragraph #2, ANNEX VI of Directive 2004/18/EC) be produced ‘on the table’ for reference by Public Contracting Authorities … NOW !!!

Built Environment:  Anywhere there is, or has been, a man-made or wrought (worked) intervention in the natural environment, e.g. cities, towns, villages, rural settlements, service utilities, transport systems, roads, bridges, tunnels, and cultivated lands, lakes, rivers, coasts, and seas, etc … including the Virtual Environment.

Virtual Environment:  A designed environment, electronically generated from within the built environment, which may have the appearance, form, functionality and impact – to the  person perceiving and actually experiencing it – of a real, imagined and/or utopian world.

The Built and Virtual Environments continue to merge into a new Augmented Reality.

A comprehensive document capable of answering a major portion of Europe’s current needs in this area is on the verge of being published as a full International Standard … ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’.  And … as is the case with hundreds of ISO Standards in other sectors, this standard could easily be approved by CEN, one of Europe’s Standards Organisations, as an EN (European Standard) … under the Vienna Agreement on Technical Co-Operation between ISO and CEN, which was confirmed by both organizations in 2001 … and the period to practical application of ISO 21542 on the ground would be relatively swift.

Every delay represents not only a precious opportunity missed to improve the Accessibility of the Built Environment … but another blatant Denial of Human and Social Rights to vulnerable groups of people in all our communities !

Yes, this document was badly managed at the beginning of its very long gestation period, and its contents were a bit of a mess for the first few years … AND European countries were indignant, then, at the prospect of it becoming a European Standard.  However, walking around any major city in any country in Europe today, and witnessing the universally appalling and miserable efforts at Accessibility Implementation … you would have to be outraged at the level of hypocrisy and blatant self-delusion practiced by Europeans !

BUT NOW … ISO FDIS 21542 … the Final Draft of the International Standard which was issued for voting, beginning on 22 September 2011 … is a very respectable looking document altogether.  It makes important statements about ‘creating a sustainable built environment which is accessible’.  Its purpose is ‘to define how the built environment should be designed, constructed and managed to enable people to approach, enter, use, egress from and evacuate a building independently, in an equitable and dignified manner and to the greatest extent possible’ … ‘principles which are supported by Preamble (g) and Articles 9, 10 and 11 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’.  I could go on, and on … but I will resist the temptation, since I was heavily involved in the development of this ISO Standard !

The point is … there is no longer any reason for European countries to complain about the inadequacy of this International Standard … and it should be the preferred instrument of choice to facilitate the immediate operation of the Accessibility / Design for All Requirements in EU Public Procurement Directive 2004/18/EC.

Unfortunately, this may not happen !

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Years too late, near the end of 2007 … DG Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion (EMPL), in the European Commission, issued the following Mandate …

M/420 EN – Brussels, 21 December 2007

Standardization Mandate 420 to CEN, CENELEC and ETSI in Support of European Accessibility Requirements for Public Procurement in the Built Environment

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (67.4 kb)

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This Mandate covers 2 Phases of Work.  Phase I deals with compiling an inventory of existing accessibility-related standards and an analysis of any gaps … as well as with issues of accessibility implementation monitoring and conformity assessment.  Phase II is the actual accessibility standard(s) development phase.

However … Mandate M/420 EN is a flawed document, and it should have received much closer scrutiny from the European Standards Organizations named in the document title … before any work in Phase I commenced.  Failing that … the first work item on the Phase I Agenda should certainly have been a critical examination of the mandate.

In a post, dated 15 January 2011 … I wrote …

The European Union’s Accessibility Strategy, related Policies and Programmes … and the monitoring, targeting and independent verification of Accessibility Implementation … all require a radical overhaul !

All those Officials in the European Commission who are involved, in any way, shape or form, with Accessibility of the ‘Human Environment’ would do well to RE-READ AND MEDITATE DEEPLY on the contents of the 2003 Final Report from the Group of Accessibility Experts, which was established by the European Commission itself … “

The Final Report from the 2003 EU Group of Accessibility Experts, of which I was a Member, can be downloaded towards the end of that post.

The Officials who drafted Commission Mandate M/420 EN paid little, if any, attention to that 2003 Expert Group Report.

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At the end of Phase I … in response to the European Commission’s Mandate M/420 EN … a long, rambling CEN Joint Report (document ref. CEN/BT/WG 207 N 29) of 425 Pages was issued, dated 8 August 2011, for general discussion and comment.

Some Comments on the CEN Joint Report …

1.  Terminology

CEN Joint Report – CEN/BT/WG 207 N 29

3.4     Conclusions View, Findings and Recommendations

3.4.1  Overview

Terms such as ‘procurement’, ‘inclusion’, ‘accessibility’ and ‘compliance’ are difficult to define precisely, and they are often not fully understood by those responsible for managing or providing the products or environments people use.  They are also not readily understood by those administrating and triggering the procurement process.

It is strange, therefore … and unacceptable … that this Report does not attempt to reduce and/or remove the ambiguity surrounding these terms … by providing a clear definition, with a supporting explanatory text, for each of the terms listed above.

I’m not even sure that the large numbers of people who helped to draft the CEN Joint Report fully understand those terms !

Most importantly, the Report is not at all precise about … and in fact appears to be completely confused by … the clear distinction which must be made between ‘accessibility’ and ‘access’.

2.  ‘Accessibility’ & UN CRPD

Accessibility does not begin and end with Article 9 of the United Nations 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) !!!   See my post, dated 15 January 2011 … and #6 below.

3.  EU Ratification of UN CRPD

The full implications arising from European Union (EU) Ratification, on 23 December 2010, of the United Nations 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) … for both EU Institutions, and the EU Member States (whether or not they have individually ratified the UN Convention) … have not been properly examined in the CEN Joint Report.

See my post, dated 5 February 2011 .

4.  Mainstreaming ‘Accessibility’

For the majority of people involved in the spatial planning, design and development of the European Built Environment, Accessibility is all about transport issues … for example, how far a proposed new building is from a transportation node.

We are communicating such a confused message (is it Accessibility for All, Design for All, Inclusive Design, Universal Design, or Barrier-Free Design ?) … that many policy and decision makers just could not be bothered.  And who, in Europe, is really concerned with the quality of Accessibility Implementation ???

In addition … the CEN Joint Report neglected to deal adequately … or at all … with a major body of EU Legislation which has been implemented at national level, in the Member States, many years ago … Safety at Work Legislation !   All of the EU Directives require that workplaces be accessible.  Yet, I know for a fact that, in Ireland, the Health & Safety Authority (HSA) is doing absolutely nothing to check whether this requirement is being complied with or not.

A Sustainable Built Environment is Accessible for All !   So many different types of International/European/National Legislation mandate that the Built Environment shall be Accessible for All !!   Good Design demands that the Built Environment is Accessible for All !!!

So why is Accessibility not being properly integrated into the operation of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Legislation ?

Environmental Impact:  Any effect caused by a given activity on the environment, including human health, safety and welfare, flora, fauna, soil, air, water, and especially representative samples of natural ecosystems, climate, landscape and historical monuments or other physical structures, or the interactions among these factors; it also includes effects on accessibility, cultural heritage or socio-economic conditions resulting from alterations to those factors.

No case need be made for the integration of Accessibility into Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA) … it self-evidently must be !

Sustainability Impact Assessment:  A continual evaluation and optimization process – informing initial decision-making, or design, and shaping activity/product/service realization, useful life and termination, or final disposal – of the interrelated positive and negative social, environmental, economic, institutional, political and legal impacts on balanced and equitable implementation of Sustainable Human and Social Development.

5.  What Is The Overriding European Social Priority ?

The overriding European Social Priority is to commence operation, with full effect, of the Accessibility / Design for All Requirements within the fast evolving European Public Procurement Framework … as quickly as possible.

Do we have to wait another 2 or 3 years, at least, for the production of an ‘acceptable’ European Accessibility Standard ??   Instead, why not approve ISO 21542 as the European Standard when it is published as a full standard … which will be very soon ?   ISO 21542 is already being used as the benchmark in the CEN Joint Report !

AND … do we have to wait, for who knows how long … before Effective Monitoring Procedures … and Independent Verification Procedures … are put in place at European and National/Regional/Local Levels ???

Quality of European Accessibility Implementation … is critical !

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2011-10-17 …

6.  Post UN CRPD – A More Demanding Scope & Quality of Implementation

Not unexpected … but it has still been a most enlightening experience to read the recent UN CRPD Committee Report on Spain … selected extracts from which are reproduced below.  The language used by the Committee is strong and direct … finally !

This is not a good report and, in places, it makes for unpleasant reading … a concrete example of the ‘hypocrisy and blatant self-delusion practiced by Europeans’, which I talked about earlier.

In accordance with Article 36.3 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) … the UN Secretary-General will be making this Report available to all States Parties.

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United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Sixth Session – 19 to 23 September 2011

Concluding Observations on Initial Report of Spain

(Article 35 of UN CRPD)

The Committee considered the initial report of Spain (CRPD/C/ESP/1) at its 56th and 57th meetings, held on 20 September 2011, and adopted the following concluding observations at its 62nd meeting, held on 23 September 2011.

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III.  Principal Areas of Concern & Recommendations

A.  General Principles & Obligations (Articles 1 & 4)

11.  The Committee takes note of the adoption of Act 26/2011 which introduces the concept of ‘person with disabilities’ as defined in the Convention and expands the protection of persons with disabilities.  However, it is concerned that not all persons with disabilities are covered by the law.

12.  The Committee urges the State Party to ensure that all persons with disabilities enjoy protection against discrimination and have access to equal opportunities irrespective of their level of disability.

13.  The Committee welcomes Act 49/2007, dated 26 December 2007, establishing the Permanent Specialized Office to deal with offences and sanctions in equal opportunities, non-discrimination and universal accessibility by persons with disabilities.  However, it is concerned by the slow development and lack of promotion of this arbitration system at the regional government level; by the lack of information on the number of sanctions submitted and resolved; and by the failure of the State Party to report on actions undertaken to implement this law.  The Committee is concerned about the overall effectiveness of the system.

14.  The Committee recommends that the State Party raise awareness among persons with disabilities about the system of arbitration; increase the level of free legal aid; and ensure the regulation of offences and sanctions at the regional government level.

15.  The Committee regrets the lack of information on the meaningful participation of persons with disabilities and their representative organisations at the regional level in designing, and evaluating the implementation of legislation, policy and decision-making processes; and the participation of children with disabilities at all levels.

16.  The Committee recommends that the State Party take specific measures to: ensure the active participation of persons with disabilities in public decision-making processes at the regional level; and to include children with disabilities at all levels.

17.  The Committee takes note of Act 2/2010 of 3 March 2010 on sexual and reproductive health decriminalizing voluntary termination of pregnancy, allowing  pregnancy to be terminated up to 14 weeks and including two specific cases in which abortion is allowed for longer time limits due to the fact that the foetus has a disability:  until 22 weeks of gestation, provided there is ‘a risk of serious anomalies in the foetus’, and beyond week 22 when, inter alia, ‘an extremely serious and incurable illness is detected in the foetus’.  It also notes the explanations provided by the State Party for maintaining this distinction.

18.  The Committee recommends that the State Party abolish the distinction made in Act 2/2010 in the period allowed under law within which a pregnancy can be terminated, based solely on disability.

B. Specific Rights (Articles 5-30)

Equality and non-discrimination (Article 5)

19.  The Committee welcomes the adoption of Act 26/2011 amending regulations which will abolish the need to have a disability certificate to bring a discrimination claim before a judicial body.  However, it regrets the lack of information on cases of discrimination, and it is concerned that persons with disabilities will still be marginalized.  The Committee is further concerned by the lack of information on reasonable accommodation.  It is also concerned that in practice disability affects parents’ guardianship or custody of their children and that legal protection against discrimination on the grounds of disability is not enforceable in cases of discrimination due to perceived disability or association with a person with a disability.

20.  The Committee urges the State Party to expand the protection of discrimination on the grounds of disability to explicitly cover multiple disability, perceived disability and association with a person with a disability, and to ensure the protection from denial of reasonable accommodation, as a form of discrimination, regardless of the level of disability.  Moreover guidance, awareness raising and training should be given to ensure a better comprehension by all stakeholders, including persons with disabilities, of the concept of reasonable accommodation and prevention of discrimination.

Article 8 – Awareness-Raising

25.  The Committee commends the many initiatives taken by the State Party to implement the Convention.  However, it notes that more needs to be done to increase awareness in society, in the media and amongst persons with disabilities themselves of the right of persons with disabilities.

26.  The Committee calls upon the State Party to take proactive measures to enhance awareness of the Convention and its Optional Protocol at all levels, in particular among the judiciary and the legal profession, political parties, Parliament and Government officials, civil society, media, persons with disabilities, as well as the general public.

Article 9 – Accessibility

27.  The Committee takes note that Act 26/2011 amends regulations which will shorten the timelines for meeting accessibility requirements in public facilities; and goods and services available to the public.  However, it remains concerned at the low level of compliance with these requirements, in particular, at regional and local levels, in the private sector, and in relation to existing facilities.  The Committee is aware of situations of discrimination faced by air passengers with disabilities, including situations of denial of boarding.  The Committee reminds the State Party that Article 9 of the Convention also demands access to information and communication.

28.  The Committee recommends that sufficient financial and human resources be allocated as soon as possible to implement, promote and monitor compliance with accessibility legislation through national measures as well as through international cooperation.

Article 11 – Situations of Risk & Humanitarian Emergencies

31.  The Committee is concerned at the insufficiency of specific protocols for persons with disabilities in emergency situations.

32.  The Committee calls upon the State Party to review its laws and policies related to emergency situations with a view to including provisions guaranteeing the security and protection of persons with disabilities.

[ My Comment:  This is a gross understatement of a serious problem which continues to fester not only in Spain but, more generally, in Europe ! ]

Article 19 – Living Independently & Being Included in the Community

39.  The Committee is concerned at the lack of resources and services to guarantee the right to live independently and to be included in the community, in particular in rural areas.  It is further concerned that the choice of residence of persons with disabilities is limited by the availability of the necessary services, and that those living in residential institutions are reported to have no alternative to institutionalization.  Finally, the Committee is concerned about linking eligibility of social services to a specific grade of disability.

40.  The Committee encourages the State Party to ensure that an adequate level of funding is made available to effectively enable persons with disabilities to: enjoy the freedom to choose their residence on an equal basis with others; access a full range of in-home, residential and other community services for daily life, including personal assistance; and to enjoy reasonable accommodation so as to better integrate into their communities.

41.  The Committee is concerned that the law for the promotion of autonomy limits the resources to hire personal assistants only to those persons who have level 3 disabilities and only for education and work.

42.  The Committee encourages the State Party to expand resources for personal assistants for all persons with disabilities in accordance with their requirements.

Article 24 – Education

43.  The Committee welcomes the fact that the principle of inclusion governs the schooling of pupils with special educational needs; that discrimination in education is prohibited; and that most children with disabilities are included in the regular education system.  It commends the enactment of Organic Act 2/2006 on Education, which obliges the education authorities to provide specialist teachers, qualified professionals and the necessary materials and resources, as well as the laws that oblige schools to make necessary curricular adjustments and diversifications for pupils with disabilities.  However, the Committee is concerned by the implementation of these laws in practice, in view of reported cases of failure to provide reasonable accommodation, of continued segregation and exclusion, of financial arguments used as justification for discrimination, and of the cases of children enrolled in special education against their parents’ will.  The Committee notes with concern that parents challenging the placement of their children with disabilities in special education have no possibility of appeal and that their only alternative is to educate them at their own expense or pay for the reasonable accommodation of their child in the regular education system.

44.  The Committee reiterates that denial of reasonable accommodation constitutes discrimination and the duty to provide reasonable accommodation is immediately applicable and not subject to progressive realisation.  It recommends the State Party to:

     (a)  Increase its efforts to provide reasonable accommodation in education, allocating sufficient financial and human resources to implement the right to inclusive education; paying particular attention to assessing the availability of teachers with specialist qualifications; and ensuring that educational departments of local governments understand their obligations under the Convention and act in conformity with its provisions ;

     (b)  Ensure that the decisions to place children with a disability in a special school or in special classes, or to offer them solely a reduced standard curriculum, are taken in consultation with the parents ;

     (c)  Ensure that the parents of children with disabilities are not obliged to pay for the education or for the measures of reasonable accommodation in mainstream schools ;

     (d)  Ensure that decisions on placing children in segregated settings can be appealed swiftly and effectively.

C.  Specific Obligations (Articles 31-33)

Statistics and data collection (Article 31)

49.  The Committee regrets the low level of disaggregated data on persons with disabilities.  The Committee recalls that such information is indispensable to: understanding the situations of specific groups of persons with disabilities in the State Party who may be subject to varying degrees of vulnerability; developing laws, policies and programmes adapted to their situations; and assessing the implementation of the Convention.

50.  The Committee recommends that the State party systematize the collection, analysis and dissemination of data, disaggregated by sex, age and disability; enhance capacity building in this regard; and develop gender-sensitive indicators to support legislative developments, policymaking and institutional strengthening for monitoring and reporting on progress made with regard to the implementation of the various provisions of the Convention.

51.  The Committee regrets that the situation of children with disabilities is not reflected in the data on the protection of children.

52.  The Committee recommends that the State Party systematically collect, analyse and disseminate data, disaggregated by sex, age and disability, on abuse and violence against children.

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END

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E.U. ‘2 Degree Celsius’ Climate Change Target Is Not Enough !

2010-06-01:  Europe got its ass whipped at the United Nations Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen, last December 2009.  Why aren’t all the Institutions of the European Union learning … really fast … from this hard lesson ???

This is also a question for the Stop Climate Chaos Campaign here in Ireland !?!

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Back on 10th January 2007 … the European Commission issued COM(2007) 2 final … a Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions … having the title: Limiting Global Climate Change to 2 Degrees Celsius – The Way Ahead for 2020 and Beyond.  [ This document is freely available for download … at EUR-Lex (a link to the WebSite is provided at the right hand side of this Page). ]

On Page 3 of the Communication, you will read the following …

‘ The EU’s objective is to limit global average temperature increase to less than 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.  This will limit the impacts of climate change and the likelihood of massive and irreversible disruptions of the global ecosystem.  The Council has noted that this will require atmospheric concentrations of GHG (greenhouse gases) to remain well below 550 parts per million by volume (ppmv) CO2 equivalent (eq.).  By stabilising long-term concentrations at around 450 ppmv CO2 eq., there is a 50% chance of doing so.  This will require global GHG emissions to peak before 2025 and then fall by up to 50% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels.  The Council has agreed that developed countries will have to continue to take the lead to reduce their emissions between 15 to 30% by 2020.  The European Parliament has proposed an EU CO2 reduction target of 30% for 2020 and 60-80% for 2050.’

What a really sloppy, imprecise expression … and explanation … to give to a critical Climate Change Performance Indicator !!   And … please note the overly optimistic ‘50% chance’.

On the evidence of Europe’s ‘real’ climate change mitigation performance to date … there is no chance, whatever, of hitting that target.

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In Copenhagen, the Group of 77 & China and the Small Island Developing States (SIDS), in particular, demanded that the planetary temperature rise be limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius !

Outside Europe … irreversible climate change is already happening … and people must adapt in order to survive !!!

For example … climate change is seriously affecting the people of the Sundarbans.  Located at the mouth of the Ganges River in Bangladesh and West Bengal in India, this area is part of the largest delta in the world.  Sundarban means ‘beautiful forest’ in Bengali, as the region is covered in mangrove forests …

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Under the Aegis of the European Environment Agency ... these 3 Photographs were taken by Mikkel Stenbaek Hansen. In each case, click to enlarge !

Under the Aegis of the European Environment Agency ... these 3 Photographs were taken by Mikkel Stenbaek Hansen. In each case, click to enlarge !

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Colour photograph showing Ruhul Khan, who has lost three houses in recent years. His former homes were located to the left of the picture, an area now covered by water.

Colour photograph showing Ruhul Khan, who has lost three houses in recent years. His former homes were located to the left of the picture, an area now covered by water.

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Colour photograph showing that the rising sea level brings salt water inland, damaging the soil’s fertility. Some residents have adapted by using their farmland for fish breeding. Others are experimenting with crop species that are resilient to salt water.

Colour photograph showing that the rising sea level brings salt water inland, damaging the soil’s fertility. Some residents have adapted by using their farmland for fish breeding. Others are experimenting with crop species that are resilient to salt water.

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END

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