The Berlin TV Tower was planned in the early 1960s and opened in 1969. Back then, society was not as open-minded towards those with disabilities as it is today. The word “accessibility” was practically unheard of and the general public was not conscious of the need to consider disabled people’s concerns in everyday life. Accordingly, they were not taken into account by the contractors, builders or architects when planning evacuation systems in the TV Tower.
The structural conditions in the Tower’s concrete shaft mean that it is not possible to develop emergency evacuation procedures for people who use a wheelchair or similar mobility aids. In case of fire, the lifts cannot be used, and visitors and guests on the viewing platform and in the restaurant would have to use the stairs, which have approximately 900 steps. This means that the Berlin TV Tower is not accessible.
WHAT HAS BEEN DONE?
This situation is a constant source of frustration for all involved and is particularly disappointing for the people affected who cannot visit the landmark. The owners, Deutsche Funkturmgesellschaft (DFMG), and the operators recognised this. Disability rights organisations were also involved.
As a result, several stages of one-on-one discussions and rounds of talks took place over a period of years. Their aim was to achieve accessibility by incorporating technical advances.
Those involved included
representatives of the Berlin Fire Service,fire safety officials,representatives of the Principal Building Authority of the Berlin Senate Department for Urban Development and the Environment,the Mitte district authority,experts, technicians and architects specialising in accessibility andthe managing directors of the operators and owners of the Berlin TV Tower.
The Berlin Commissioner for People with Disabilities was involved in the talks at all times. Also participating were representatives from the organisation Sozialhelden e.V., which deals with building accessibility for Berlin and beyond, and also works on its own initiative.
But it wasn’t all talk. All traditional and newly developed rescue resources were examined and tested collaboratively.
This comprehensive process lasted for several months in 2013 and 2014.
Following examinations of the stairwell, lifts and evacuation platform on the exterior of the tower shaft, it was concluded that it would not be possible to rescue people with mobility issues from the TV Tower in an emergency. The tests, discussions and negotiations therefore came to an end with the conclusion that accessibility of the Berlin TV Tower cannot be achieved at the present time, as people with severe mobility issues could not be brought to safety in case of an emergency.
What the social organisations and Berlin officials have to say:
Sozialhelden e.V. documented and described the discussions and the investigations. It provides information on the efforts. Wheelmap.org.
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