Designers and builders obligated to adapt buildings for people with disabilities2016-04-12
At its 15th session in Geneva last week, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities discussed Lithuania’s report on the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Its members showed an interest in the areas of responsibility not only of the Ministries of Social Security and Labour, of Transport and Communications and of Justice, but also of the Ministry of Environment.
According to Edita Meškauskienė, member of the Lithuanian delegation and Deputy Head of the Construction Standardisation Division of the Construction and Housing Department of the Ministry of Environment, national legislation stipulates that the territories of cities, towns and villages and all their elements must be designed and installed so as to prevent any obstacles for people with disabilities and any restrictions on their free life and liberty of movement and activity.
The Law on Construction contains an obligation to adapt buildings under design, construction, reconstruction or overhaul to the specific needs of disabled people. The body authorised by the Department for the Affairs of Disabled (DAD) to verify compliance of projects significant for the disabled with the established requirements is the Lithuanian Association of Adaptation of the Environment of People with Disabilities. DAD authorised representatives also participate in building completion commissions and check if a building conforms to the design. The project manager bears the responsibility for ensuring that designed buildings meet the specific needs of the disabled.
A list of facilities important for people with disabilities is defined in the Construction Technical Regulation “Structures and territories. Requirements for the needs of people with disabilities”. In urban territories, residential buildings must have the necessary service facilities situated at a distance to enable the disabled to use them. People with disabilities must also have possibilities for the independent use of public transport without obstacles, which means adequately designed stops, transfer points and terminals of the pubic transport system.
The same requirements also apply to non-residential buildings important for the disabled. Such buildings must ensure the possibility of independent access to them and the free movement and use of all main and auxiliary premises designed for visitors. They must also have an adequately adapted main entrance and access to it, as well as all main and visitor service premises, passages, hallways and lobbies leading to those premises, all evacuation routes, exists and doors suited for people with disabilities. Each floor is required to have at least one toilet room for people with disabilities.
The so-called principle of “universal design”, i.e. the principle of alternative accessibility and movement (for all members of society) is one of the architectural quality criteria defined and formalised by amendments to the Law on Construction drawn up and proposed by the Ministry of Environment.