New builds and renovations are subject to the Disability Access Code Australia. These rules are laid out in the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, and affect the planning, designing, and construction of any new building in Australia. But where exactly do these regulations apply? What are my obligations as a contractor, developer, or designer? Compliance with these standards is enforced, so knowing that you’ve ticked all the boxes is crucial, especially when writing up initial quotes and estimates. Here’s your guide to understating key obligations in the Disability Access Code Australia.
What’s the main purpose of the Disability Access Code?
Construction standards that apply to buildings in Australia and effect new builds and renovations alike. The Disability Access Code Australia requires compliance based on a number of site specific criteria – so there’s no blanket rule that covers every project. The Disability Access Codes state their main purpose is:
- to ensure dignified, equitable, cost-effective, and reasonably achievable access to buildings, and facilities and services within buildings is provided for people with a disability; and
- to give certainty to building certifiers, building developers, and building managers that, if access to buildings is provided per these standards, the provision of that access, to the extent covered by these standards, will not be unlawful under the Disability Discrimination Act.
Does this affect my project?
In short, most likely. If a new building isn’t a Class 1 build (detached private home or apartment), the building standards and code will apply. Here’s a list of the most common types of projects that will be subject to the Disability Access Code Australia:
- All commercial offices and workplaces.
- All commercial businesses including shops, theatres, cinemas.
- Industrial buildings.
- Rental accommodation such as flats, townhouses.
- Short term accommodation such as hotels, backpackers, and hostels.
- Public buildings such as government offices, public toilets, and public transport.
Complying with the standards
Essentially, adhering to the Disability Access Code Australia means building to a legal standard that allows for universal access to parking facilities, entrances and accessways, bathrooms, change rooms, lifts and passageways. Below are the most common areas requiring attention by designers, builders, and project managers.
Entrance and passageways
Entrances to buildings are key to fulfilling the obligations under the Disability Access Code Australia. Without proper access through entrance ways, a building will not pass an assessment. Accessible buildings must follow key entrance and accessibility requirements that dictate how many entrances should be available in different sized buildings. Dimensions of access points are a key part of the legislation.
Here are the basics:
- The minimum width of an (unobstructed) access way must be 850mm.
- Entranceways must allow for a 180-degree wheelchair turning circle.
- There must be a passing area every 6 metres if the two-way passageway is less than 1800mm wide.
Outdoor pathways and ramps
Outdoor pathways and access ramps to raised building entrances must also follow strict guidelines. Wherever two or more ramps are connected:
- There must not be a combined vertical rise of more than 3.6 metres. For ramps up to 9 metres long, a maximum 1:14 gradient must be observed, above 15 metres the maximum gradient is 1:20.
- Two or more connecting ramp landings must never overlap.
- Tactile ground surface indicators must be included for vision impaired persons.
Clear access ways must be maintained at all times, even during renovation and building. This applies to public footpaths and public passageways. A developer using a footpath is required to allow clear passage through at all times.
Toilets and Bathrooms
Toilets must include an accessible unisex toilet, or fully wheelchair accessible toilets in the same place as other toilets and must include:
- Sufficient space for movement in a wheelchair.
- An accessible closet pan, washbasin, shelf, or benchtop.
- Access to means of disposal of sanitary towels.
- A lift if the toilets are on an upper level.
Depending on the nature of the building, other regulations may apply. Be sure to check the Disability Access Code Australia for the regulations relevant to your project.
Multiple storey: lifts, escalators, and moving walkways
There are strict requirements for the lift dimensions and user features, all of which will depend on how high the lift will travel. Here are the basic requirements:
- Lifts that travel no more than 12 metres must have minimum floor dimensions of 1,100mm wide, and 1,400mm deep.
- Lifts travelling more than 12 metres must be a minimum of 1,400mm wide, and 1,600mm deep.
Lifts serving more than two levels must have automatic audio identifiers describing the level and direction of travel at no more than 1500hz. Getting to know your lift requirements early is a good idea given the large impact it will have on the surrounding structures.
The provision of adequate parking spaces will depend on the nature of your project and will be subject to local zoning and council regulations. As per the Disability Access Codes Australia are concerned, disability parking must be provided to the degree necessary and give equal access to all patrons and members of the public. Depending on the size of the establishment – the number of disabled parking spaces will differ. For example, a healthcare facility or a school must have at least 1 disabled parking space per 100 spaces.
Signage and Braille
Ensuring your new build is appropriately signed with international braille language markers is an important requirement ensuring equal access to visually and audio impaired persons. This will typically include markers for bathrooms, floor level descriptions, exits, and other site-specific information such as tactile ground indicators and directional indicators for fire exits, stairways, escalators, lifts, and ramps.
Exemptions to the rules
There are several exemptions based on the nature of the work being done. Depending on the project – you will want to double-check that you’re in the green. For private builds, clients will often stipulate whether they would like increased access through their home depending on their circumstances. A number of exemptions pertaining to specific aspects of disability access will often depend on the intended plans, original structure, and other site-specific factors. A business or developer has the right to prove that ‘unjustifiable hardship’ would result from compliance with the Disability Access Code Australia, and thus circumvent certain obligations under the Code.
What if I don’t comply?
Non-compliance will rarely result in a fine as these issues are normally ironed out in the early planning and design stages. If a building does not comply with the regulations the owner or business may risk a complaint being lodged against them. Complaints can be lodged against both public or private bodies and can result in hefty payouts if taken all the way. Of course, it’s best to stay on top of your obligations as a developer or designer, this way you can accurately estimate and move forward with peace of mind.
Make your next build fully compliant
Finding a supplier who knows their Disability Access Codes is hard. For quality assurance on all your equipment, from the planning, building, and day to day running of your business, Image Bollards is here to ensure your next project is fully compliant and safe. From parking lots to safety barriers and crown control, being compliant isn’t about ticking boxes, it’s about ensuring the safety of your staff, patrons, and the general public. For more information about how you can make your business compliant, contact Image Bollards today.