Disability access to buildings

New buildings and new parts of buildings are required by the Building Act 2016 (external link) to be accessible for the disabled, this includes:

  • access for persons with a physical impairment
  • features such as materials that one can touch for the for the visually impaired
  • a sound loop for the hearing impaired.

Types of buildings that may be affected by the Building Act

  • all workplaces
  • all commercial and industrial buildings including shops, restaurants, cinemas
  • private rental accommodation including flats, apartments and town houses
  • short term accommodation including hotels, motels, guest houses, a group of four or more cabins let for tourist accommodation
  • a block of public toilets.

Not covered by these laws are

  • a single standalone residential  house or unit
  • a shed or garage joined to another building.

Current legal requirements

There is a legal requirement to make sure that people with a disability have access to a range of public buildings in Australia.

The legislation that must be followed relates to access to premises / buildings is the Commonwealth's Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) (external link) and the Premises Standard 2010 (external link) which is referred to in Volume One of the National Construction Code (NCC 2016)(external link).

These documents are the law in Tasmania – the NCC provides technical requirements.

Examples of accessible building features

The following are some examples of the accessibility features that may be required with buildings. Not every building will require every feature. It will depend on the location and use of the building.

Indoors

  • Doorways - minimum clear opening is 850mm - circulation spaces for doorways with swinging doors and sliding doors
  • Internal walkways and paths leading to exits are to be 1.2m wide as a minimum with passing areas of a minimum width of 2m at intervals of 20m.
  • Doors, architraves and skirting painted in a contrasting colour to help people with vision impairment
  • Compliant door handles and fixtures suitable for hinged or sliding doors
  • Toilets - may include an accessible toilet (may be unisex) or a fully wheelchair accessible toilet with circulation space
  • Wide enough toilet doorway and circulation space (location of grab rails, and toilet roll holders are important)
  • Bathrooms - circulation space is needed
  • Showers – no step from shower to floor area and grab rails are needed
  • Hand basin – raised basin with clear space below for wheelchair access
  • Tables, counters and benches - business reception counters should be accessible to a person in a wheelchair
  • Signage - not less than 1400mm or more than 1600mm above floor level, and a simple font (typeface) such as Arial is preferred
  • Many of these above requirements are set with minimum height and distances

Outdoors

  • Pathways and ramps to buildings and car parking must be of sufficient width to allow passing at bays and walkways and may require a landing depending on the gradient
  • Ramps - the maximum gradient is 1:14 for up to 9m long and 1:20 for a ramp up to 15m long
  • Hand rails and kerbs – fitted with hand rails on both sides of path or kerb
  • Tactile Ground Surface Indicators to assist vision impaired persons
  • Off street parking – provide designated spaces and continuous path of travel to building entrances
  • Steps – provide hand rails on both sides and contrasting nosing strip

For more information on accessible features of a building read the Australian Standard AS1428 (2009) "Design for Access and Mobility" Part 1: General Requirements for Access – New Building Work; and other relevant parts as referenced by the NCC 2016 (National Construction Code)as the legal technical requirement for new building work.

Existing buildings

Alterations to an existing building may need a building permit to comply with the National Construction Code disability access provisions. When no building work is being done on an existing building there is no need to upgrade the building to NCC standards, including compliance with disability access requirements.