International Day of Persons with Disabilities
Did you know that 1 in 5 Australians have a disability? That’s nearly 4.3 million people. Disabilities range from the physical (for example, wheelchair users, vision and/or hearing impaired persons) to the neurological and behavioural (for example, people with epilepsy, dementia or severe social anxiety).
Creating accessible buildings is not for the odd few. It is for 20% of the potential clients, tenants, staff members, students and the general public who enter your building. Good design is good business.
Access consulting is a service that works to help you achieve compliance with the ‘Disability Discrimination Act 1992 Access to Premises Standards’. It helps you incorporate appropriate, equitable access solutions in your building.
Table of Contents
Creating accessible buildings should not be limited to the minimum requirements outlined in legislation. Creating spaces with consideration for their use, that are inclusive for all, is invaluable design.
Door circulation space and signage
All doors within a building that are located on an accessible path of travel must be provided with minimum unobstructed circulation space. These minimum circulation spaces allow mobility aid users to navigate the doorway and prevent an opening or closing door from hitting anyone or anything.
Braille, tactile and wayfinding signage are effective methods of helping building users to navigate an unfamiliar building. Ensuring consistent, logical and clear signage throughout a building is fundamental to supporting wayfinding for people with intellectual impairments. Avoid using multiple words to reference the same location, as inconsistency will only create confusion. Communication is key to ensuring all building occupants are afforded the same opportunity to locate all facilities within the building.
Visual indicators on glazing
People with vision impairments can experience difficulty in identifying openings in full-height glazing. As such, Australian Standard 1428.1 2009 Part 6.6 requires that a visual indicator be provided on all fully glazed doors or glazed areas that can be mistaken for a door. A visual indicator must be at least 75mm wide with a 30% illuminance contrast and the bottom edge must be located 900mm to 1100mm above the floor.
Unisex accessible sanitary facilities
Accessible bathrooms have a range of legislative and accessibility requirements for identifying and using the facilities.
When designing accessible bathrooms, consider door circulation, internal circulation and the ability for occupants to access and use the internal fixtures. Door controls must be located more than 500mm from internal corners and other obstructions to ensure they are usable. In some instances, duplicate door controls provide an equitable solution. Ensure the location of paper towel or soap dispensers isn’t blocked by rubbish bins or located in a corner that will render them inaccessible. When specifying a toilet roll holder, consider the ability of users with impaired hand functionality to access and use the toilet roll. This is more important than the number of rolls that can be stored.
Consistency is key to ensuring that all occupants can identify and use the accessible facilities that are provided. Therefore, it is vital to install products in the heights and locations specified under Australian Standard 1428.1-2009.
Accessibility changes you can implement this year
Install tactile ground surface indicators
Tactile ground surface indicators are raised bumps used to warn people who are blind or vision impaired that they are approaching a hazard. They must be at the top and bottom of staircases, ramps and escalators. They can also indicate more serious hazards, like roadworks, railway crossings or construction areas.
Tactile ground surface indicators also provide an extra level of warning for children, people who may be distracted on their phone or any person approaching the hazard.
Provide seating and quiet areas
Incorporating rest seating within design is a low-cost way to provide additional support to building occupants. Many people appreciate the opportunity to stop and have a break, whether they are elderly, parents with a pram or people with medical concerns.
It is also valuable to provide quiet or ‘escape’ spaces within busy or overstimulating buildings. Low stimulation environments typically have low ceilings, minimal reflective surfaces and muted shades of natural colours like blue and green to create a safe space for occupants to pause and regain their equilibrium.
Consider providing transition spaces or nooks between high contrasting environments, as this can be an overwhelming experience for some. Softening the transition between a busy café and a quiet waiting room can help building occupants with the contrasting environmental stimulus. It can also prevent people from becoming disorientated or overwhelmed.
Connection with nature can reduce stress, blood pressure and heart ratings. Simultaneously, it can increase productivity, creativity and wellbeing. Maximising natural lighting and views of greenery reduces fatigue and improves wellbeing.
We all have moments where we need to pause and regroup or handle something discreetly. Seating and quiet spaces are an easy, low-cost way to support all people within the building.
The value of access consulting
Optimising your building’s accessibility improves access for everyone – not just those with a condition or impairment. Consider the needs of the people who frequent your building. What would make their time in your facility easier? How can you increase the effectiveness of your staff members and service to clients?
If you’re not sure where to start, our building surveyors are trained in access consulting and can help you put together a plan of action.