Australia

New building standards commence to improve accessibility for people with disability

THE Australian Government this week announced the commencement of new building accessibility standards to make all new and upgraded public buildings in Australia accessible to people with a disability.

The Disability (Access to Buildings – Premises) Standards 2010 (Premises Standards) is part of the government's National Disability Strategy, a ten year reform plan that aims to ensure that people with disability have the same opportunities as other Australians.

"The start of the national Premises Standards marks a huge improvement for access to buildings for people with disability," Attorney-General Robert McClelland said. 

The new Premises Standards will apply to any application for a building approval for a new public building or upgrade of an existing public building and will operate throughout the country.

"Providing better access to public buildings will remove a significant barrier for people with a disability accessing services, employment and taking part in the community," Mr McClelland said.

Minister for Innovation Senator Kim Carr said the changes were good for both the building industry and people with disability. 

"The Australian Government will work with industry to improve access to buildings in Australia for people with disabilities," Senator Carr said.

"The new building codes give everybody involved the certainty they need for future investments."

Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes, said the new standards "usher in significant changes to the way public buildings are designed, constructed and renovated, which means greater safety and accessibility for all Australians, whether they live with disability, are ageing or simply experience difficulty entering and using buildings for any other reason."

Mr Innes said that for too long, a large sector of our community had been locked out of public buildings that everybody else could access freely.

Changes introduced as part of the new Premises Standard include:

  • Increases in the number of accessible entrances and doorways to buildings;
  • Increases in circulation space requirements in most places such as in lifts, accessible toilets and at doorways;
  • Some improvements in signage in relation to accessible facilities;
  • The introduction of a requirement for passing and turning spaces on passageways Increases in the areas covered by hearing augmentation systems in rooms with a built-in PA system;
  • Improvements in the types of lifts that are already accessible and to the access features within lifts;
  • The introduction of access requirements to certain common areas in new apartment blocks in which there is one or more short-term rental units;
  • The introduction of requirements for accessible facilities in certain new or upgraded accommodation, such as B&Bs, beds or cabins in holiday parks;
  • Increased requirements for accessible units in hotels and motels;
  • The introduction of requirements for access into certain public swimming pools; and
  • Significant increases in the number and location of unisex accessible toilets.

Copies of the Premises Standards and associated documents are available at the Attorney-General's Department website at <http://www.ag.gov.au/> and further information on the Standards is available at the Australian Human Rights Commission website at <http://www.hreoc.gov.au/>.

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