Young disabled people in Amsterdam have written an open letter calling safety authorities to revise the rules on emergency escape routes.
The organisation ‘Wij Staan Op’ (We Stand Up) said the prescribed width of 110cm for emergency exits was too narrow to allow them to turn around in a wheelchair, leaving them at risk of being trapped.
The letter calls on the safety council for Amsterdam-Amstelland to take action to ensure venues provide more escape route and wider doorways to avoid the risk of wheelchair users being trampled in the scramble for the exits.
Safety expert Marianne Dijkshoorn told NOS that the new safety rules that came into force on January 1 were flawed. The rules stipulate that all emergency routes should be wide enough to fit four people per square metre, but did not take the needs of wheelchair users into account.
‘You need 1.50 metres to turn round in a wheelchair,’ she said. ‘And in an emergency you need to be facing exactly the right way in your chair, otherwise you’ve got problems.’
GroenLinks MP Linda Voortman said she would campaign in Parliament for the rules to be amended. ‘Something has clearly gone wrong in the development of these regulations and the law is the law. We are legally obliged under the UN’s disability treaty to ensure access and safety for disabled people.
‘We will therefore ask for these regulations to be reviewed as soon as possible, because they are clearly against the law.’
The national fire service acknowledged that disabled people had not been specifically considered in the discussions that produced the regulations, but advised them to work with event organisers to agree appropriate safety measures.
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