Staff and visitors who are blind or partially sighted may need to be accompanied by designated staff to assist with evacuation, and orientation training may also be necessary. People who have visual impairment are helped to escape by the provision of clear signage and other orientation clues. Most 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 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. It is important to practice the evacuation and familiarise VI employees with all routes available to them.
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 staff who have visual impairment. When building furniture is rearranged and escape routes are affected, it is important that these changes are documented and communicated to visually impaired people in the building.
If someone is new to the building and doesn’t know their way around, 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.
Be on the lookout to help your visually impaired colleague whenever there is a fire alarm or emergency evacuation. Just guide the person to the exit by letting them rest their hand on your shoulder or elbow and walk with you. This link will give you some guiding tips:
One of the key things to learn is repetitiveness, the more you go over the evacuation plan with your blind or partially sighted colleague, the quicker it will become second nature to you both.
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, they may struggle with the concept of having to evacuate the building in a rush.
In order to combat their stress and worry, 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 they are not very able bodied, they may struggle to evacuate on their own. This is where you need to have clear rest/refuge points for them to wait if they feel that they aren’t coping in the main flow of evacuees. This is likely to be necessary if a person has physical mobility difficulties when walking down stairs.
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 relied on are touch and sound, therefore when a fire alarm is constant and piercingly loud it can become very disorientating and potentially difficult to navigate, therefore, rest spots can be crucial.
Another issue 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 blind or partially sighted person will use, where the rest stops are, and what to do if you see someone who needs assistance.
Assistance for the Person and their Guide Dog
Where a person uses a guide dog, they may prefer the dog to assist them and only need escape routes to be shown to them. Others may request a human assistant, if so, a buddy needs to be allocated.
Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan Checklist for Visually Impaired Persons
The information provided on the form below can be used to help produce a Personal Evacuation Escape Plan to meet the needs of someone with visual impairment.
Download this form for completion by the building user (colleague or visitor) and assessor by using the following link: https://visualisetrainingandconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/PEEP-form-.docx
Most blind and partially sighted people develop strategies for navigation around a working environment space, such as equipment, shelves and furniture.
If someone has little or no useful vision, they will usually rely on some kind of mobility aid. Mostly, that involves navigating using a long cane. The cane provides, by touch and sound, what eyesight tells a sighted person about their environment.
You can help your colleague to navigate independently around the workplace by using a combination of common sense and applying simple Health and Safety rules.
• It is a good idea to arrange a tour of the workplace, as you would with any other employee, although a little more time and attention to detail may be required.
• Be mindful of workplace clutter (open drawers, bins, etc.) that might present a trip hazard. Try not to move your colleague’s things or change where things are kept without discussing with them first.
• Your colleague may not be able to walk unattended across hazardous areas, or places where there might be unforeseen obstacles.
• A simple banister running along the length of stairways is always important. • The routes into and out of your colleague’s workstation, amenities, and especially the route to a fire exit, should not be used as a storage area, temporary or otherwise.