Access to Buildings and Services

If you live in Australia and you’re having/or have had problems accessing goods and services, particularly if those things are located within a building that’s impossible for you to access because of the building’s air quality, then you may need to read this from the Australian Human Rights website:

Use of chemicals and materials

“A growing number of people report being affected by sensitivity to chemicals used in the building, maintenance and operation of premises. This can mean that premises are effectively inaccessible to people with chemical sensitivity. People who own, lease, operate and manage premises should consider the following issues to eliminate or minimise chemical sensitivity reactions in users:

  • the selection of building, cleaning and maintenance chemicals and materials (see Note below);
  • the provision of adequate ventilation and ensuring all fresh air intakes are clear of possible sources of pollution such as exhaust fumes from garages;
  • minimising use of air fresheners and pesticides;
  • the provision of early notification of events such as painting, pesticide applications or carpet shampooing by way of signs, memos or e-mail.

For more information on ways to eliminate or minimise chemical and fragrance sensitivity reactions look at http://www.jan.wvu.edu/media/MCS.html andhttp://www.jan.wvu.edu/media/fragrance.html

Note: There are a number of relevant environmental and occupational health and safety regulations and established standards, however, as is currently the case with other standards referenced in building law, compliance with those standards may not necessarily ensure compliance with the DDA.”

There are many services where you may find Fragrance Emitting Devices (FEDs), or oil burners in use. If these are a problem for you then ask the staff to turn them off for a couple of hours (or days even) before your appointment. It’s no hardship for them to do that; however, it is on you if these things effect your health (and it will be on your hair, clothing and belongings if you enter these places). Thankfully, there are now guidelines (and hopefully one day (soon), policies and laws) to help us facilitate the accommodations needed to be made for us so that we can access the same services as the rest of the population. Places that are difficult to go to can be dentists, natural therapists, doctors (though not usually allergists or immunologists) some of these are right into the fashion and marketing trend that is ‘ambient scenting’: releasing fragrance chemicals and natural scents into the air at timed intervals. Then there are places like pharmacies and shopping centres where people spray and test fragrances before purchasing; obviously, a chemically sensitive person will avoid going to a pharmacy where fragrance is sprayed, but just how do they get their medicines or other health items?

And even in health food shops people can have trouble; just because it’s natural and came from hippy-boo har’s health food shop, does not mean that everyone is going to be okay breathing fine particles of this product’s ingredients as they are dispersed throughout the air. In Australia, not everyone knows that (including some health professionals) but don’t worry too much about that at this point; just know that you are fully within your rights to ask for them to help you access the services or goods within the building. Take this example from the ‘Conciliated outcomes: Goods, services and facilities’ on the Australian Human Rights website:

Fragrance free access

A man who has adverse reactions to perfumes complained that he was unable to access his local pharmacy because of fragrances, in particular near the checkout area. The matter was settled when the pharmacy chain agreed to develop a system of zones in its premises including fragrance free aisles, and a home delivery service.”

Or this one:

Managing chemicals

A man who stated that he has sensitivities to a range of chemicals complained that a retail shop was inaccessible to him because of strong fragrances worn by checkout staff. The matter was settled without admission of liability when the store agreed to request staff to avoid strong fragrances, and to raise with its departments issues of use of the least toxic paints, glues and building materials available, non-allergenic carpeting, and warnings when toxic materials were present.”

Some people could only imagine the stress and anxiety that comes with standing up for our rights. But do you know what? That stress diminishes somewhat if you do stand up for yourself. (For me, I have a residual anxiety that’s always buzzing in the background, but the stress that I feel in these situations is actually a tool that I’ve realised I can use to get things done.) No-one wants to be difficult (except for Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory) and it’s often the essence of being polite, and well mannered that stops us from speaking up. But where is it written that one disability is less than another disability? Where is it written that we are less human than another human? Of course, that’s not been documented anywhere. Not that I’ve found. But what has been documented are our rights; and thanks to some brave, brave people (heroes in my book) things are a changing down under!

Australian Human Rights Commission: Access to buildings and services guidelines

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

About Michellina van Loder

Comments

  1. Accessibility policies are a big help!

    I call, make an order (often a case full so the outer cardboard protects the contents) and try to pick up the day the order arrives in the shops to avoid further chemical fragrance contamination, where staff will bring it out to me and take my payment in.

    I used to ask them to gather things to the customer service desk, back when I could still go in the door, but when that became impossible for me, I’ve had to ask things be brought outside.

    Small town people were friendlier about doing this, but the one store I can get myself to nearby here has gotten pretty good at doing their best, which sadly still leaves me with exposures, but I have to appreciate their efforts as I have no other options.

    This is mostly for foods, I live without a lot of stuff because it’s just too saturated to be able to suffer through the exposures.

    Society is so very fragrance chemical contaminated now, they are almost impossible to avoid, and when people use the products, they no longer notice, since they spend so little time in truly fragrance free environments.

    But for services? I still do without.

    So far, there hasn’t been enough enforcement of any policies, they seem more voluntary than mandatory when it comes to air quality, and there are no official ways to complain here when people in places decide they don’t want to be accessible.

    • Michellina Van Loder says:

      Yes, they are! If you have a link to one out your way, I’d love to know about it. It empowers other people to know that they exist too.

      I like the idea of ordering in boxes. I did this for tissues a few times. I know, there are so many items that are just not worth suffering through trying to air them. Do you have a shop where they cater for people with chemical sensitivities? I’ve found one that sells fragrance free only, and i’ve found a organic cotton mattress manufacture who has great products that never have mould or other chemicals on them.

      I agree about small town people being friendlier about things too. Not sure why that is, but I’ve found that even wearing my mask around in a small town is easier because people are either not bothered by it, or if they are curious, they just ask me about it, which i appreciate much more than *people laughing and sniggering and yelling stupid things out like they do here in the city, especially in major shopping centres.

      I like online shopping, and I like being able to put my needs in writing so that if they are not met, then I can just have my products swapped or refunded. I’m sure you’ve had many things you haven’t been able to use over the years, just like I have.

      Can i ask you if you see a dentist? Are you able to do that? Or a doctor? (Tell me to rack off, if that’s nosy, but I’ve found that there are some people who are professional and they don’t use these products, and I keep looking until I either find them, or find someone I can ‘train’. Because we are just as human as anyone else!) I don’t like the idea that you can’t access services!

      I hear you about the fragrance contamination. I’m not looking forward to walking back into the building where I go to Uni. If I could find a better mask, just so I can get to the classroom, my life would be more comfortable in that I could breathe without being in pain! I’ve found the ‘I can breathe mask’ useless for indoor situations. I use a 3M carbon filter, which I can seal pretty good but the lack of oxygen gives me a headache. I have one from Germany that I’m yet to try out, but it’s cotton with a thick wad of carbon inside (this one actually looks nice on, compared to the others :) Do you use a mask? Or is that a silly question?

      Over here, we can make a complaint to the Disability Discrimination Legal Service (DDLS) who then give legal advice, which can then be used to take it to either a local Human Rights or an bigger Australia wide one, but that’s more for suing for damages; generally, people go through the state one because it’s quicker and they work on a resolution rather than reimbursement for damages/injury or whatever. The thing is most sick people can’t take the stress of going through those channels.

      • Too many questions at once for my brain… Please choose one at a time for me :-)

        • Michellina Van Loder says:

          Oh, sorry Linda. I know, I can be a bit like that. Do you use a mask, and if so, what brand?

          • I use cotton masks with activated carbon inserts. The woman who made them no longer does, but there’s a similar model available here:
            http://www.aehf.com/home.php?cat=154

            They are not effective for long term or serious protection, but make a difference in allowing me to get away from lesser fumes. I just can’t have any synthetics against my skin.

            Masks also don’t prevent our skin or eyes from absorbing the chemicals, so our vision can be affected, and we can still have adverse symptoms from what we absorb through our skin.

            There’s a hooded mask with oxygen that I’d love to check out. I think they’re called PAPR devices. I just don’t know if I’d tolerate the materials they are made of, and without testing them, or knowing how long they’d take to offgas, I wouldn’t want to order one, as they are expensive.

            Google PAPR images to see some

            • Michellina Van Loder says:

              This one looks like the ones I’ve ordered from Germany: http://www.purenature24.com/mcs-mask-with-activated-charcoal I’ve use it twice, but I think I need to tighten the elastic because it does not seal over my face effectively.

              The only one to work so far, is the 3M but I think this can make me sicker if wearing it for a few hours because of the carbon absorbing the VOC’s on the outside of it.

              With chemical exposure to solvents, my eyes stop producing mucous based tears (as apposed to the watery ones), and chemicals can really sting and burn; that’s why this year, I’ve got to get the students in my classes to go FF, because even with my mask, I get so ill. So, I’m looking for options.

              I’ll check out the PAPR one too

  2. I have used home delivery and the drive thru at our local pharmacies. My eye doctor still uses those darn plug-ins. I call and they remove them a month before I come. Yes the chemicals are still in the office and yes there are still other patients with fragrances but it is better than having those things spewing out even more chemicals while I am there. I need to have a good talk with him about not using them at all. If I need something at a market, I do not hesitate to ask someone to go and get it for me if it is an area of the store I have to avoid. I have even found something in an outside bin at a hobby shop and asked someone to come out, get the item, ring it up and then bring it back outside to me. What we have to do to survive. This is just a smattering of what we all do on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. Thank you for sharing Miche.

    • Michellina Van Loder says:

      That’s great that you get them to remove the plug-ins (I’ve been calling them fragrance emitting devices (FEDs). One month sounds about right; even though, for us that fragrance will never go away. It permeates through everything. And it’s so not nice getting it over our hair and clothes, and then having to put up with the symptoms too. I’ve had to throw out clothing after going into a shopping centre’s toilets, not only was I sick for days but I couldn’t get the artificial rose out of my clothes (they were viscose and polyester). Since then I always wear cotton so that I’ve a better chance at washing it out.

      You are so, so brave. I commend you for standing up for your rights and getting things done. I love what you did at the hobby shop! ♥ Such a great example of what can be done; however, I wish that your health improves and you don’t need to do that. And I wish all the shops would go fragrance free!

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Information, products and views presented by guest bloggers @The Labyrinth are not necessarily the same as those held by this blog's author, Michellina van Loder. Reviews are my own personal opinions (unless stated otherwise); and satire is used throughout personal posts. Any health topics discussed are not to be taken as medical advice. Seek out medical attention if needed and do your own research; however, you're welcome to use mine as a start.
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