Staff and visitors with visual impairments should be accompanied by designated staff to assist with evacuation, and orientation training may also be necessary. People who are visually impaired are helped to escape by the provision of good signage and other orientation clues. Most visually impaired people have some sight and will be able to use this during the escape in order to make their own way out of the building as part of the crowd.
Where the physical circumstances are appropriate, they will have no problems leaving the building. Consider the use of specialist orientation information e.g. tactile information and audio signals. Other building design features on escape routes or stairs that may assist them are: good colour contrasts, handrails, step edge markings, contrasting nosing on stairs, colour contrasted or different textured floor coverings or way finding information or signs. Visually impaired people will need to be informed of these features as part of the PEEP and information provided in advance of the person starting work at the building.
Where there is a lack of orientation information, staff assistance will be necessary to provide guidance out of the building. Other than for occasional visitors, building plans to enable good familiarisation should be available so that people who are visually impaired have good orientation information and are aware of alternative routes to leave the building. Instructions available in Braille, large print electronic or audio will assist in providing fire instructions. It can also be useful to provide a tactile map of the escape routes and to provide orientation training to visually impaired staff, pupils or regular visitors. When building furniture is re-arranged and escape routes are affected, it is important that these changes are documented and made known to visually impaired people in the building.
Emergency Evacuation can be an issue for someone who is visually impaired.
If someone is new to the building, and doesn’t know their way around the building, then they wouldn’t be able to escape as quickly and efficiently as another visually impaired person who has been working in the building for a long time.
Each team will have their own Induction process for new starters related to their role. When someone is inducted into the team with someone who is Blind/Visually impaired, they will get the opportunity to work alongside the Blind/Visually impaired person and learn about who they are, how they work, and generally just get used to being around them and realising that they’re no different to you.
You will also be trained to be on the lookout to help your visually impaired colleague whenever there is a Fire alarm/Emergency evacuation. This would just be guiding the person to the exit by letting them rest their hand on your shoulder/elbow and walk with you.
The team induction is particularly useful in this case, as it gets you used to seeing what the rest of the team does to support their colleague.
One of the key things to learn is repetitiveness, the more you go over the Evacuation plan with your visually impaired colleague, the quicker it will become natural to you and them and you will become familiar with the Evacuation plan.
Most blind people will be used to their impairment as they may have had it for many years. However, if someone has recent sight loss, then they may struggle with the concept of having to evacuate the building in a rush.
In order to combat their stress and worry of having to Evacuate, you must make sure that you know your building’s evacuation route, and (if applicable) your team’s evacuation plan to help the person with a visual impairment.
Physical ability is also a major factor within the evacuation process. Visually impaired people will most likely be very able bodied, and capable of following a familiar evacuation route on their own. However, if a visually impaired person is not very able bodied, then they may struggle to evacuate on their own. This is where you need to have clear rest/refuge points for visually impaired people to wait if they feel that they aren’t coping in the main flow of evacuees.
People with a visual impairment most likely have some of their other senses heightened in order to compensate for their lack of sight. The most common senses people with a visual impairment rely on is touch and sound, therefore when a fire alarm is constant and piercingly loud it can become very disorientating and potentially difficult to navigate for people with a visual impairment, therefore the rest spots can be crucial if someone is struggling.
Another issue people with a visual impairment is other people running back into the building. This could be because they forgot to hide something important or left confidential information lying around. They will be running against the main flow of evacuees and therefore the person with a visual impairment may not realise when someone is moving towards them.
This is why evacuation training should be mandatory for all staff, so they know which side of the stairs the person with a visual impairment will use, where the rest stops are, and what to do if you see someone who needs assistance.
The main learning point is that people with a visual impairment are the same as everyone else, except they can’t see as well. Offering equipment such as an evacuation chair could be perceived as being insulting, there is also no need to stay a few paces behind them on the stairs because “they might fall” or “they need more room than us.” If they are able bodied, treat them the same as you’d treat someone without a visual impairment, but offer your shoulder or elbow for them hold if they require it.
Assistance for the Person and their Dog
Where a person uses a guide dog, they may prefer the dog to assist and only need escape routes shown to them. Others may request a human assistant so a buddy needs to be allocated. It may also be necessary to provide a person to look after the dog. This may be provided in a formal or informal manner.
FORM B – VISUALLY IMPAIRED PERSONS
Download this form for completion by the building user and assessor by clicking the following link https://www.visualisetrainingandconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/PEEP-form-.docx