VIC – Work Place Safety Assessors advise that Regulation 116 of the Building Amendment Regulations 2011 came into operation on 1 May 2011 to cover disability access. Regulation 116 of the Building Amendment Regulations 2011 addresses disability access and requires that any alterations to an existing building, that requires the issue of a building permit, will act as a trigger to now also require an upgrade of the principal pedestrian entrance of the building and the accessible path of travel to the altered part of the building to allow for disability access.
This aspect has significant implications for future projects involving alterations to existing buildings, since consideration of the costs to upgrade the principle pedestrian entrance, the access to the altered part of the building and toilets for people with disabilities also need to be taken into account for any costings due to the increased scope of works for disability access.
The disability access provisions apply also to toilets for people with disabilities, whereby existing toilets within the altered parts of the building and in the accessible path of travel from the main entrance to the altered parts must also be upgraded in accordance with AS 1428.1-2009. Existing toilets however that comply with the previous edition of AS 1428.1-2001 are not required to be upgraded to the 2009 edition. Existing toilets that are not located in the accessible path of travel and are not within the altered parts of the building do not have to be upgraded.
There are however concessions in multi-tenanted buildings, whereby if a tenant carries out alterations to their tenancy, they will not be required to upgrade the main entrance and any lift and access from the main entrance of the building to the tenancy for disability access. There is also a general disability access exemption for areas where providing access would be inappropriate because of the purpose for which the area is used, or to areas that would pose a health or safety risk for people with a disability.
There are also some limited concessions under the Building Code of Australia for disability access. For example a lift is not required in a building of not more than three storeys, with a floor area of each storey, of not more than 200m2.