1. Introduction

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1.1. Background.
1.2. Who This Document is For.
1.3. Some Obligations.
1.4. Universal Design.
1.5. Who to Consult With.

1.1. Background.

Voice of Vision Impairment (VVI) is a national disabled persons
representative organisation with specific remit on Human Rights based issues pertaining to visual impairment.  In Ireland, such representative organisations are known as Disabled Persons Organisations (DPOs), and under the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, DPOs must be distinguished from and prioritised above disability service providers in consultations relating (directly or indirectly) to disability (see 1.5, below).

Since accessibility to our environment and society is a Human Right, we have produced this document to assist institutions in making their spaces (both indoor and outdoor) accessible to all visually impaired people. It is designed to be complementary to our other policy documents: such as VVI’s Accessible Communications Policy.


and our Manual of Accessible Planning for Pedestrians.

Although this document is primarily concerned with public access, the accessibility needs of employees of relevant institutions who are visually impaired are also advanced, albeit by extension.

1.2. Who This Document is For.

While this document is primarily aimed at public institutions, it should also be a useful guide to be applied to private settings open to the public.

The types of public spaces envisaged include:

  • centres of public administration (such as buildings of statutory bodies)
  • centres relating to justice (e.g., garda stations and courts)
  • transport hubs (such as railway stations and airports),
  • health and care centres (including hospitals, nursing homes, vaccination centres etc.),
  • education centres (such as schools and colleges)
  • community hubs (such as libraries and community centres)
  • heritage centres (such as castles and stately homes,
  • exhibition centres (such as museums and art galleries)
  • parks and wildlife (including zoos, playgrounds, interpretation centres, etc.).

1.3. Some Obligations.

A. EU Standards.
B. Public Sector Duty.
C. Disability Act (2005).
D. Reasonable Accommodation.
E. UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD).

The below is a very brief overview of the most salient obligations in domestic legislation and international regulations and obligations. This list is not exhaustive and is meant as a very basic guide, not as legal advice.

A. EU Standards.

In terms of digital signage and displays the standard (EU) 2019/2021 is an obligation.

In terms of underfoot wayfinding, useful guidance may be found in the new EN 17210 (EU) standard. While this standard is intended to make for accessible evacuation in emergencies, it supersedes part M of the Building Regulations, or Technical guidance document M (TGD – M) and covers accessibility and usability of the built environment, generally.

There are also two supporting standards called CEN/TR 17621 which covers ‘Technical performance criteria and specifications’ and also CEN/TR 17622 which covers ‘Conformity assessment’.

Other related standards include

  • DD CEN/TS 15209:2008 Tactile paving surface indicators produced from concrete, clay and stone;
  • UNE-CEN/TS 15209:2009 EX Tactile paving surface indicators produced from concrete, clay and stone.
  • ISO 23599:2012 Assistive products for visually impaired persons Tactile walking surface indicators.
    Also relevant are:

B. Public Sector Duty.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014, S42), places “public strategic equality and Human Rights duty” obligations on public bodies. In other words, that the public body “shall, in the performance of its public functions, have regard to the need to a). eliminate discrimination; b). promote equality of opportunity and treatment of its staff and the persons to whom it provides services; and c). protect the Human Rights of its members, staff, and the persons to whom it provides services.

This also means that all public bodies must assess, address, and report on their duty to promote equality and prevent discrimination of employees and service users.

Assessment of the duty is required to be set out in a public body’s sectoral/corporate plan, as well as the policies, plans and actions to address these issues. Its progress on these must be set out in its annual report.

C. Disability Act (2005).

Part 3 of the Disability Act (2005), is relevant in terms of access to heritage sites and public buildings, as well as in terms of procurement of services from external parties. This Act is further clarified by the National Disability Authority’s Code of Practice (s.i. 2006 / 163).

D. Reasonable Accommodation.

In terms of individual engagements, the Equal Status Act (2000, S4), prohibits discrimination (by non-provision of “reasonable accommodation”), against disabled people.

E. Article 9 of the UNCRPD.

The UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities Article 9), which deals with access to the environment, as well as with access to information.

1.4. Universal Design.

The Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) was ratified by Ireland in 2018, and should underpin all policies and plans of statutory bodies.

“Universal Design” is mentioned in Article 2 of the CRPD, and is a concept that is in line with the social model of disability: in other words, that people are disabled by bad design, social biases and prejudicial norms, neglectful policies etc., rather than by their impairments or diverse conditions. All of us have the Human Right to have access to our environment and community on the same basis as everyone else (cf. European Convention on Human Rights, Article 8).

Universal Design is design that facilitates the needs of everyone, including over the perceived conveniences or aesthetic desires of the perceived majority or ‘norm’. As the average age of our population steadily grows, the Human Right of equal access through Universal Design becomes a lived reality for more and more people.

1.5. Who to Consult With.

Article 4 (3) of the CRPD, which is a “general obligation”, and cross-cutting of every other Article in the CRPD (General Comment 7, paras. 3, 68), obliges States parties to “closely consult with and actively involve” disabled people “through their representative organizations” in policies and implementation of plans, designs, etc., affecting disabled people – which includes just about everything (ibid., paras. 18-20).

In Ireland, these representative organisations are generally known as Disabled Persons Organisations (DPOs). They must be led, run, and directed by disabled people themselves, and a clear majority of their membership must be disabled (ibid., para. 12). They should not be disability service providers (such as the traditional brand names in disability advocacy in Ireland), because of the potential for conflict of interests (ibid., para. 13); and as such, attention is drawn to the difference between service-users or clients and actual members. DPOs have Human Rights at their core, and must be rooted in the CRPD.

DPOs should be the first port of call in consultations, since they are the voice of the pooled experience and collective expertise of their constituency members; and also, their views and opinions should be prioritised in such consultations (ibid., paras. 13, 14, 23). Consultations with DPOs should begin at the conception stage of a plan, design or policy, and be a continuous process, with detailed feedback and meaningful discussion (ibid., paras. 22, 23, 28, 43, 47, etc.).

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