AUST – HENDRY disability access consultants advise that one of the major changes to impact on the Built Environment in recent times has been improved to the commonality of the disability access provisions for buildings in the Building Code of Australia (BCA) and the Diability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010. These enhancements have substantially harmonised the BCA with the Disability Discrimination Act, and as a result, the integration of the disability access code with the BCA carries significant implications for building owners and tenants generally. While Aged Care facilities tend to be better designed for mobility needs and access due to their design intent and the needs of their occupants. Aged Care facility owners and providers may also find that additionaldisability access requirements need to be met if new buildings or alterations to existing buildings are planned.
The Premises Standards contain detailed disability access information specifying thecircumstances and types of building where the Standards apply, and they apply to a new building, a new part of an existing building, and the affected part of an existing building. A BCA Access Audit should be performed by a building surveyor before commencing any design work.
Disability Access Terminology For disability access, the affected part of a building means:
- The principal pedestrian entrance of an existing building that contains a new part and
- Any part of an existing building that contains a new part, that is necessary to provide a continuous accessible path of travel from the entrance to the new part
Generally speaking, the affected part of a building must comply with the new access requirements where alterations and/or additions are proposed to an existing building, and the proposed work is subject to a building permit/complying development certificate or construction certificate.
The affected part of the building, relative to disability access, does not apply to:
- Existing parts of buildings outside the area of the new work and the affected part upgrade
- An access way from the allotment boundary, from ant accessible car parking space on the allotment or between other buildings on the allotment.
Upgrading works for an affected part may include the following disability access works:
- Accessibility of upper floors to the new work
- Providing lift access features such as Braille or tactile buttons
- Removing a step at a building entrance
- Upgrading handrails on a ramp
- Minimum width requirements of doorways or passageways, including passing and turning spaces
When Disability Access Provisions Apply
Lessees submitting an application for building approval for the building work to their leased area only, do not need to ensure that the affected part of the building complies with the Premises Standards for disability access.
However, this disability access concession does not apply if the new part is within a building with only one lessee. Note that for building owners who make alterations or upgrades to their buildings, the Premises Standards provisions will apply regardless of whether the building is multi-tenanted or not. The Premises Standards makes some limited disability access concessions for existing lifts and disabled persons toilets under certain circumstances, and there is also a general exemption for areas where providing access would be inappropriate because of the purpose for which the area is used, such as a fire lookout tower for example, or to areas that would pose a health or safety risk for people with a disability.