The issues raised by attempts to reconcile the demands of access and safe egress for 'handicapped' people in public buildings are outlined. It is argued that the current international concern with barrier free egress is likely to remove a major historical obstruction to the implementation of access codes and standards. The new British Standard Code of Practice for Means of Escape for Disabled People (BS 5588 Part 8) and changes in life safety codes in other countries, may prove to be a starting point for a major change in the life safety philosophy of codes and standards. This should eventually contribute to the greater safety of all building users. With the advent of principles of 'Assisted Escape,' it should become recognised that all building users are handicapped as much by a building as their own capabilities. Movement in a fire is regarded as a problem of effective communications, as well as an ergonomic design problem, in which people have insufficient time to reach safety. Different social, psychological and physical barriers to movement in a building and potential design solutions (eg. protected refuges) are discussed in relation to recent research. A plea is made for the closer integration of evacuation procedures and design codes, greater recognition of the association between the building as used in normal circumstances and in an emergency, and international pooling of the knowledge gained from future research of difficulties faced by people with a range of physical and sensory handicaps.