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Nantwich-based Direct Access has launched its new Evacuation Chair range. Developed by disabled people, the company believes it to be the first time that chairs have been developed with a disabled evacuee in mind.

Established in 2004, Direct Access is an award-winning accessibility consultancy advising organisations on physical access to premises. A key feature of Direct Access’ consultancy work has been regular identification of the need for evacuation equipment to assist in emergencies. 

Systems are often supplied as a box solution and are installed with little consideration of the comfort of the end-user who often must remain within the evacuation equipment until the emergency is over or an alternative wheelchair is obtained. Their normal wheelchair or walking aid must be left behind as it is not designed for fast, safe egress. “This leaves both operators and evacuees fearful of using evacuation equipment,” said Direct Access’ Sales Director Lee Searle. 

“This fear is translated into disabled people or expectant mothers not wanting to use evacuation equipment as they do not feel safe or confident in the chair. Training always appears to be around how to use the equipment and failed to advise how an operator can reassure the individual in the chair. There is a clear gap in the market and Direct Access has stepped up to fill that gap. 

Direct Access’ Founder Steven Mifsud, who himself is deaf, said: “Building owners were informing us they are uncertain of what they need or where to go when considering how to evacuate a building. Disabled people were telling us they do not feel confident with being evacuated. Our evacuation chairs are therefore easily identifiable in their orange and black colours. This is particularly valuable for neurodiverse people who identify orange with the life jackets seen on ships.

“As an Access Consultant and Director of Direct Access for 17 years, I have seen first-hand how evacuation has been done incorrectly – we want to remove the fear factor, helping organisations develop inclusive access and egress.”

“I am delighted that we have trained and developed a team of installation and servicing engineers who have a disability to roll out our new range.”


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