Vol. 20 No. 2
From Our Readers
Another Access Challenge
By now most Americans know what accessibility means for
wheelchair users, for people with deafness, and vision impairment.
However, what does access mean to persons with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and
other environmental disabilities? In the interest of shining a little light on
this subject, we print the following excerpts from a proposed letter to the
Architectural Access Board in Washington. This letter is a combined effort of a
group of MCS activists including Sharon Wachsler.
There are many barriers that are easily addressed in your guidelines that have a profound impact on the daily lives of people with my disability/ies. [MCS, autoimmune disorder, asthma, cancer, other hidden disability.] Please set standards that would take into consideration the following suggestions.
1. Make all public buildings and transit safer and more accessible by implementing the following:
a. Reduce/eliminate exposures to superfluous toxic chemicals in building materials for the built environment. Use low-emitting volatile organic compound (VOC) products such as paints, carpets, adhesives, wall-covering, vehicle seats, et al for rehab/remodeling and new construction. Set standards for their use just as standards are set for carpet pile depth and density for mobility access.
b. Remove fragrance emission devices/systems (FEDS) and all perfume/deodorizers from restrooms and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in buildings and vehicles.
c. Install communication devices outside at wheelchair accessible entrances, and other likely entrances, in a sheltered, exhaust and smoke free area which is not chemically treated for pests. We need to announce our arrival at a facility, ask for assistance outdoors, or directions to the safest nearby area within the structure from a safe area.
d. Require permanent signage boards on which notices can be posted advising staff and public what is required to maintain safety in a designated area. Also temporary signage warning us if the guidelines have been compromised for the chemically sensitive such as when waxing, cleaning, painting, or pest cont-rol applications have occurred.
e. Increase ventilation of parking garages, increase number of handicap slots near exits accessible to people affected by chemical or electromagnetic sensitivity.
f. Landscape and build according to established practices that eliminate the need for maintenance with chemical pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides.
g. Utilize ceramic tile and other safe materials; use mold-resistant materials around plumbing and HUAV systems (naturally resistant as opposed to pre-treated with fungicide); install only ventilating systems made of solid metal without insulation lining and capable of being easily cleaned; set standards for placement of exhaust vents and air intakes so foul air isn't drawn into the building.
2. Create an accessible path of travel for people with chemical or electromagnetic sensitivity in healthcare facilities, government agencies, and other entities serving the public. The "Path of Travel" means that a person with a disability must be able to get from transportation through a door into the facility, get to the desired destination within the facility, go to the toilet, make a phone call, and get a drink of water safely.
a. Path to the door:
1. No herbicide, pesticide, or chemical fertilizer used along the environmentally accessible path or on adjacent lawns, plants, etc.
c. Environmentally Accessible Room would have as many of these characteristics as possible:
1. no carpet;
2. cleaning and maintenance with non-toxic products;
3. a wall switch giving the occupant control of the lighting and ventilation;
4. a buzzer, intercom, or house phone to alert the receptionist or security that we are there and ready for our appointment;
5. no mandatory fluorescents (if there, let us turn them off);
6. no FEDS in the room or along path of travel;
7. no chemical insecticides or plantings that can only be maintained using herbicide;
8. located on the ground floor if possible;
9. not located directly over the transformers or generators for the building;
10. Permanent signage indicating that the room is used by chemically sensitive people and that there is no smoking or use of fragranced or toxic personal care or cleaning products in the room at any time.
Sharon Wachsler is a former employee of the Information Center, Housing
Chairperson for the Environmental Health Coalition of Western Massachusetts, and
Editor of the newsletter The Clarion.
If you are interested in these issues, you may contact her at SWachsler@aol.com.