/ ALTERNATIVE SOLUTIONS REQUIREMENTS
Alternative solutions can also be considered by the building surveyor to determine if the disability access proposal complies with the performance requirements of the Building Code of Australia 2011, instead of complying with the Deemed to Satisfy Provisions where the building surveyor determines that the level of disability access is not less than the Deemed to Satisfy Provisions of the BCA. Advice from a disability access consultant may be required, depending on the circumstances, to assess any design solutions on access matters to support the issue of any alternative solution determinations involving disability access by the building surveyor.
/ ALTERATIONS TO BUILDINGS
A building surveyor can still issue a dispensation to the BCA disability access provisions under Regulation 608 of the Building Regulations 2006 for alterations to an existing building, however since the Premises Standard is Commonwealth legislation under the Disability Discrimination Act, it takes precedence over Victorian State Legislation (Building Regulations 2006).
Therefore even though a building surveyor may issue a disability access dispensation, taking into account the amenity (disability access) of the building, the dispensation would be disregarded by the Australian Human Rights Commission in the event that a complaint was made to them and they would in fact consider the building surveyor to have acted unlawfully.
/ CHANGE OF USE AND MAJOR REFURBISHMENT
Disability Access and toilet facilities for people with disabilities may also need to be upgraded to current BCA and AS 1428.1-2009 requirements if the existing building under goes a change of use under the provisions of Regulation 1011 of the Building Regulations 2006.
Also under Regulation 608 of the Building Regulations 2006, major refurbishments that exceed more than half of the original volume of the building, together with any other alterations completed within the previous 3 years, may also require the entire building to be brought into conformity with the current BCA and AS 1428.1-2009 requirements i.e. upgrading the disability access requirements.
The building surveyor may however consent to partial compliance under both Regulations 1011 and 608, if appropriate, taking into account Regulation 116 and the reasonable provision for the amenity (disability access) of the building and the safety and health of people using the building.
The building surveyor and applicant would however be acting unlawfully under the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act by approving building work in relation to the altered parts of the building that does not comply fully with the disability access provisions of the BCA.
/ BCA AND AS1428.1-2009 MAJOR CHANGES
The introduction of the BCA and AS1428.1-2009, that supersedes the previous AS1428.1-2001 (disability access code) edition, has resulted in some significant changes to the disability access and toilet facilities for people with disabilities. Some of the major Disability Discrimination Act changes, implications and concessions applicable to the campuses are as follows. Please note that the reference to accessible in the items below is “having features to enable use by people with a disability” and reference to ambulant disabilities is “people who have a mobility disability but are able to walk”.
/ MANAGEMENT OF REGULATORY ISSUES
The objectives of the Disability (Access to Premises- Buildings) Standards 2010 is to “ensure that dignified, equitable, cost-effective and reasonably achievable disability access to buildings, and facilities and services within buildings, is provided for people with a disability” (Part 1.3). Similarly the Performance Requirement of the BCA DP1 requires that disability access must be provided “to the degree necessary”
It is acknowledged that it can be physically difficult and costly to make an existing building fully comply with the current disability access requirements of the BCA and AS1428.1-2009 and therefore there are some exemptions, alternative solutions and unjustifiable hardship options available to building owners and applicants as discussed in this article.
The circumstances under which these provisions of the Premises Standards and the BCA will prevail will in all likelihood be tested going forward, but there is no doubt that the provisions for disability access in the BCA have been significantly strengthened, and the scope for dispensations and grounds for unjustifiable hardship significantly curtailed.
Designers and architects need to be aware that the BCA only provides the minimum disability access design requirements and therefore there maybe particular situations where additional Disability Discrimination Act measures should be installed and adopted. For example, the BCA does not require tactile indicators in fire isolated stairways, given that typically the stairs are only intended to be used for emergency evacuation purposes and it would be expected that there would be a passenger lift within the building. There may however be situations in particular buildings where the occupants may regularly use the fire isolated stairways as a means of access between the floors, either because there is no lift or it provides a quicker means of access. In some circumstances it may be appropriate to install tactile indicators in the fire isolated stairways, even though they are not required by the BCA as disability access can be foreseen.
We recommend that a review or upgrade of any building should not be considered in isolation and therefore any Disability Discrimination Act upgrades of buildings and external walkways need to be addressed as part of an overall master plan for a building or a number of buildings on an allotment. This will also ensure that a consistent approach is adopted.
Disability access needs to be considered from allotment road boundaries, accessible car parking space, to and between all buildings on the allotment to access work, public places and toilet facilities. Consideration needs to be given to the compliance of any landscaping and external works that, although may not require the issue of a building permit, should nonetheless be reviewed since it may affect disability access and pathways to the buildings and facilities. We recommend that a review or upgrade of any building should not be considered in isolation and therefore any Disability Discrimination Act upgrades of buildings and external walkways need to be addressed as part of an overall master plan for a building or a number of buildings on an allotment. This will also ensure that a consistent approach is adopted.