Disability and Access in practice
At present some international regulators and national governments have failed to catch up with the established science on the harmful effects of electromagnetic exposure. It is therefore up to groups and individuals to help businesses, schools, hospitals and similar public places to realise their responsibilities under United Nations Equality and Disability Rights to provide for many people in society adversely affected.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
- "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
- Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
- No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
- All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.
- Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
- No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
- Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
- Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
- Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
- Everyone has the right to education.
- Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits."
Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Articles 1, 3, 5, 7, 13, 17, 21, 23, 25, 26, 27; 1948.
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities:
- "States Parties shall prohibit all discrimination on the basis of disability and guarantee to persons with disabilities equal and effective legal protection against discrimination on all grounds.
- In order to promote equality and eliminate discrimination, States Parties shall take all appropriate steps to ensure that reasonable accommodation is provided."
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; Article 5: 2, 3; 2006.
Nuremberg Code on medical and health experiments:
- "The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential.
- The experiment should be so conducted as to avoid all unnecessary physical and mental suffering and injury.
- No experiment should be conducted, where there is an a priori reason to believe that death or disabling injury will occur.
- Proper preparations should be made and adequate facilities provided to protect the experimental subject against even remote possibilities of injury, disability, or death.
- During the course of the experiment, the human subject should be at liberty to bring the experiment to an end, if he has reached the physical or mental state, where continuation of the experiment seemed to him to be impossible.
- During the course of the experiment, the scientist in charge must be prepared to terminate the experiment at any stage, if he has probable cause to believe, in the exercise of the good faith, superior skill and careful judgement required of him, that a continuation of the experiment is likely to result in injury, disability, or death to the experimental subject."
Nuremberg Code, Paragraphs 1, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10; 1949.
International EMF Commissions:
International Commission for Electromagnetic Safety (ICEMS):
International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP):
- "Different groups in a population may have differences in their ability to tolerate a particular NIR exposure. For example, children, the elderly, and some chronically ill people might have a lower tolerance for one or more forms of NIR exposure than the rest of the population. Under such circumstances, it may be useful or necessary to develop separate guideline levels for different groups within the general population, but it may be more effective to adjust the guidelines for the general population to include such groups.Some guidelines may still not provide adequate protection for certain sensitive individuals nor for normal individuals exposed concomitantly to other agents, which may exacerbate the effect of the NIR exposure."
(International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP): "General approach to protection against non-ionizing radiation" 2002)
US American Disability Access Board (ADA) and recognition of EHS as a disability:
- "The Board recognizes that multiple chemical sensitivities and electromagnetic sensitivities may be considered disabilities under the ADA if they so severely impair the neurological, respiratory or other functions of an individual that it substantially limits one or more of the individual's major life activities."
(Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board: 36 CFR Part 1191 [Docket No. 98–5] RIN 3014–AA16 Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities; Recreation Facilities: Federal Register: Vol. 67, No. 170 ; Tuesday, September 3, 2002 / Rules and Regulations, p.56352.)
- "For people who are electromagnetically sensitive, the presence of cell phones and towers, portable telephones, computers, fluorescent lighting, unshielded transformers and wiring, battery re-chargers, wireless devices, security and scanning equipment, microwave ovens, electric ranges and numerous other electrical appliances can make a building inaccessible."
"Cell Phones Turned Off:
Protect those with electromagnetic sensitivities and others who may be adversely affected by electrical equipment.
Ability to turn off or unplug computers and other electrical equipment by occupant or staff: Protect those with electromagnetic sensitivities and others who may be adversely affected by computers and electrical equipment.
Ability to turn off fluorescent lighting by occupant or staff: LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) recommendations for new construction call for individual control of lighting.(3) Newer fluorescents that contain electronic rather than magnetic ballasts may be less problematic for some people with electromagnetic sensitivities because they do not produce a visible flicker or audible hum. They are also less prone to trigger seizures."
"According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other disability laws, public and commercial buildings are required to provide reasonable accommodations for those disabled by chemical and/or electromagnetic sensitivities. These accommodations are best achieved on a case-by-case basis."
(National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) Project Designated Cleaner Air Rooms Committee )
(Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities; 2000)
- Alexis Kramer: “Hypersensitivity to WiFi … could it be a disability?” (Bloomberg BNA Legal, 2015)
- When a US-American patient moved to Bavaria in 2006 and he was sensitised by nocturnal High Frequency radiation, he had to move away in 2007, but although he improved he was unable to work subsequently because of the ever higher environmental exposures. The court acknowledged his ES in 2012 and he was granted a pension back-dated to 2008. (Eger H: "Causal. Legally Recognized Proof of the Damage Potential of Technical Highfrequency Fields - a Case Report"Umwelt-medizin-gesellschaft, 2014)
- A utility was required to restore an analog meter for an EHS customer and not to discriminate against the EHS customer in setting higher charges for installation or reading the meter. ("Judge Rules Electric Utility’s Smart Meter Opt Out Fees Violate State Law; PSREC Refuses to Reconnect" 2015).
- The Los Angeles Unified School Board provided a WiFi-free environment without radiation for Mrs Anura Lawson, a teacher made electrically sensitive by the school WiFi installation earlier in that year. ("Los Angeles Unified School District Accommodates Teacher Who Fell Ill After Wireless Installation" PRLOG, 2014)
US Department of Labor: the Office for Disability Employment Poiicy (ODEP), Job Accommodation Network (JAN):
Accommodation ideas for individuals with electromagnetic sensitivity:
- Allow communication via typewriter or handwritten notes rather than via computer or cover the computer with Plexiglas or other shielding material
- Provide headset/handset extenders or alternate headsets to lengthen the distance between devices that trigger symptoms and the employee's body
- Change the employee's shift to allow for less exposure to others' devices
- Relocate workplace away from areas where symptoms are triggered. This may include limiting certain types of devices in the vicinity of the employee's workstation
- Allow telework (Note: regarding work at home, unless the employee wants to work at home, other options should be explored first to keep the employee in the workplace)
- Allow the employee to meet with others in areas where triggers are minimized or allow remote access to meetings or activities that must take place in areas that trigger symptoms.
- Provide wired telephones and network connections
- Provide building-wide and/or workspace shielding of equipment and devices, for example add filters to fluorescent lights and tape electrical cords
(Accommodation Ideas for Electromagnetic Sensitivity; 2016)
(Job Accommodations for People with Electrical Sensitivity, Effective Accommodation Practices (EAP) Series, April 28 2015)
US Department of Education:
Massachusetts: General Laws:
- "No person shall possess a portable device or weapon from which an electrical current, impulse, wave or beam may be directed, which current, impulse, wave or beam is designed to incapacitate temporarily, injure or kill, except: (1) a federal, state or municipal law enforcement officer ... or (2) a supplier of such devices or weapons designed to incapacitate temporarily ... No person shall sell or offer for sale such device or weapon, except to federal, state or municipal law enforcement agencies ... The secretary of public safety shall adopt regulations governing who may sell or offer to sell such devices or weapons in the commonwealth and governing law enforcement training on the appropriate use of portable electrical weapons." (Massachusetts: General Laws: Part I - Administration of the Government; Title XX - Public Safety and Good Order; Chapter 140 - Licences; Section 131J - Sale or Possession of Electrical Weapons, Penalties)
A useful overview is provided by Katie Singer, author of An Electronic Silent Spring (2014). This is aimed at applying the USA's Access Board for disability rights to common situations.
There are four groups listed:
(a) People with medical implants
(d) People with Microwave Sickness or EHS
There are six policies for public accommodation of these four groups:
1. Posted Warnings
2. Training Videos
3. Retaining Landlines
4. Preventing Blanket WiFi
5. Provision of wired analogue utility meters
6. All devices should have the capability for (i) wired links and (ii) shutting off wireless
Testimony and evidence on lack of accommodations for people with electrosensitivty:
Canadian Human Rights Commission:
MCS and EHS recognized as environmental disabilities.
"The Medical Perspective on Environmental Sensitivities" Canadian Human Rights Commission, 2007,
Administrative Appeals Tribunal of Australia (AATA):
Scientist awarded 75% of salary when he was unable to work because his employer failed to protect him from radiation although he had been diagnosed with EHS.
Dr McDonald and Comcare, AATA 105; 2013
School accepts EHS:
An Australian school installed wired internet access to provide equal opportunity to a child disabled by electrosensitivity.
“Parent’s success in stopping WiFI installation at Australian school” EMFacts, 2015
Council of Europe:
- ES has been recognised as a disability with financial assistance for shielding and measuring equipment awarded by the MDPH of Essone for a technician in a chemical laboratory who had been on sick leave since 2011.
EHS reconized, 2014
- The applicant, Marine Richard, 39, a former radio documentary producer, hailed the ruling as a "breakthrough" for people afflicted by Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS). Richard lives in the mountains of southwest France, in a renovated barn without electricity, and drinking water from the well. A court in Toulouse decided she can claim a disability allowance of about 800 euros ($912) per month for 3 years. Her lawyer Alice Terrasse said the ruling could set a legal precedent for "thousands of people".
“French woman wins disability grant for 'gadget allergy'” AFP, Expatica, 2015
"Gadget 'allergy': French woman wins disability grant" BBC News, 2015
Court bans 'Smart' meter for EHS person and anti-WiFi protection paid for by state:
- A victim of electrosensitivity, acknowledged as a handicap since 2015, obtained in court the withdrawal of her ‘smart’ water meter which had aggravated her symptoms. The insulation of her apartment had been partly financed by the CDAPH. In mid-November 2016, the Grenoble District Court ordered the removal of the radiofrequency water meter from the home of an electrosensitive woman Isère, it was learned on December 9 from her lawyer Jean-Pierre Joseph and the Next-Up Association. In this judgment, presented as "a first" by Mr. Joseph, the court claimed that "the water meter installed in the apartment of Mrs. C. and that installed in the boiler room should be replaced by counters with an annual reading". The court stated in its decision that Linky electric meters and Gazpar gas, which are based on the same principle as the water meter in question, should not be installed in the complainant's dwelling. It also excludes meters using PLC technology (on-line carrier currents) on the grounds that they emit electromagnetic and electric fields. Me Joseph explained that to protect herself from WiFi waves, her client requested that her apartment be insulated, part of which was financed by the Commission on the Rights and Autonomy of Persons with Disabilities (CDAPH) of Isère. The coordinator of the environmental association Next-Up, Serge Sargentini, welcomed in this judicial decision "a major step forward for public health. The court explicitly extended its decision to all meters with radiofrequency transmitters." In 2015, the Disability Dispute Tribunal of Toulouse had recognized the existence of a serious handicap due to EHS of an Ariégeoise, who thus obtained the right to an Allowance for disabled adults (AAH ).
(Handicap France: “Electrosensitivity: meter removed by court decision” 10 December 2016:
High Court, Madrid:
Spanish Labour Court of Madrid:
- A teacher was awarded 100% of salary by the Spanish Labour Court of Madrid which recognised the permanent incapacity of a college professor who suffered from CFS and environmental EHS and awarded 100% of the base salary,
Teacher awarded 100% of salary; 2011
Tarragona Municipality Government:
- Tarragona Municipality Government proposed for people with Central Sensitivity Syndromes (CSS) which includes ES and EHS, especially a housing protocol for people with CSS, especially those who have MCS and/or EHS, those threatened by eviction or those who are forced to leave their home. This protocol has to include a series of safe social housing (green/white spaces: free of xenobiotics and electromagnetic waves) and the creation of green/white spaces in all municipal buildings (free of xenobiotics and electromagnetic waves).
"Support plan for people with EHS", 2016
Health and Safety at Work:
- Under the general duty of care, with criminal liability, every employer has a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees, and that persons not in his employment are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.
Health and Safety at Work Act, 2(1), 3; 1974
- This requires of employers, as a ‘duty to make adjustments’, such steps as is reasonable to take to avoid the disadvantage where a physical feature puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage,
- For recruitment, an employer can only ask about disability if there are job requirements which cannot be met with reasonable adjustments.
Equality Act, Section 20.4; Recruitment; 2010
Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations:
- "You must give special consideration to the safety of employees at particular risk (even if you are in compliance with the exposure limits).
- An employee at particular risk is: an employee who has declared to their employer a condition which may lead to a higher susceptibility to the potential effects of exposure to EMFs. This includes expectant mothers who have informed you of their condition and workers who have declared the use of active implanted medical devices (AIMDs), passive implanted medical devices (PIMDs) or body-worn medical devices (BWMDs)"
Electromagnetic fields at work: A guide to the Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations 2016, Sections 49, 50
Advisories on accommodating electrically disabled and other vulnerable people
Many other groups, including governments, are now issuing Best Practice protocols on how everyone should use cellphones and WiFi and where cellphone towers should be sited.
Cellphones and WiFI:
Environmental Health Trust: Healthy Schools (2014)
Environmental Health Trust: Doctors' Advice (2014)
Green Health Watch (2011)
Natural Health Strategies
Safe Schools (2012)