Limitations of legislation and regulations
While there is a range of regulations about access to buildings, there are few controls that relate to the design of features in the external environment in the provision of access for all users. It is imperative, therefore, that planners and designers of sport and recreation facilities are familiar with the principles of universal design, as well as other relevant guidelines, and assume responsibility for fully and sensitively providing access to everyone.
Planners and designers often interpret legislation and regulations as ‘preferred standards’ rather than ‘minimum provisions’. Regulatory requirements are generally very basic and are intended to cater for minimum requirements of specific users.
They are not, and should never be seen as, ‘ideal’ or preferred for everyone. There are numerous examples of buildings that technically conform to the regulations but remain, in reality, inaccessible to many people.
Finally, regulations are primarily relevant in public facilities where the precise characteristics and capabilities of potential users are unknown and in any case can vary considerably. It is therefore important to provide an environment that caters for a wide range of needs, rather than the minimum required by legislation.
The following provides some guidance on the legal requirements for access to buildings and facilities:
- Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA)
- Disability (Access to Premises - Buildings) Standards 2010
- Building Code of Australia
- Planning Ordinances
- Australian Standards.
Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA)
Coverage of the Disability Discrimination Act.
The DDA provides uniform protection against unfair or unfavourable treatment of people with a disability in Australia. The key principles in relation to buildings and facilities are based around the provision of equitable, dignified access.
The DDA became operational in 1993 and makes it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of disability in the following areas:
- public footpaths and walkways
- educational institutions
- shops and department stores
- banks, credit unions, building societies
- parks, public swimming pools, public toilets and pedestrian malls
- cafes, restaurants, pubs
- theatres and other places of entertainment
- lawyers' offices and legal services
- sporting venues
- social and sporting clubs
- government offices
- public transport including trains, buses, ferries, boats, ships and planes
- dentists' and doctors' surgeries
- hairdressers and beauty salons
- travel agents
- government-run services.
Sport and recreation services and facilities fall under the umbrella of the DDA legislation and as such, asset owners and facility managers are expected to comply with its provisions.
Definition of disability
The DDA provides a very broad definition of disability and includes:
- physical disability
- intellectual disability
- psychiatric disability
- sensory disability
- neurological disability
- learning disabilities
- physical disfigurement
- the presence in the body of disease-causing organisms.
The DDA's scope also covers:
- disabilities which have existed in the past, but no longer exist
- disabilities which may exist in the future
- disabilities which might be imputed to a person.
Under the DDA it is also unlawful to discriminate against a person on the grounds of being an associate of a person with a disability, such as a carer, spouse, relative, person living with someone on a genuine domestic basis or someone in a business, sporting or recreational relationship.
Therefore, it is important that all sport and recreation facilities provide equitable, dignified access for all users. Adopting a universally designed approach will support the objectives of the DDA and enhance use by everyone.
The DDA and facility design – Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010
On 15 March 2010, the Disability (Access to Premises - Buildings) Standards 2010 were tabled in federal parliament. These Standards were made under subsection 31(1) of the DDA with the following aims to:
- ensure that dignified, equitable, cost effective and reasonably achievable access is provided to buildings and facilities and services within buildings, for people with a disability
- give certainty to building certifiers, building developers and building managers, that if access to buildings is provided in accordance with these Standards, the provision of that access, to the extent covered by those Standards will not be unlawful under the DDA.
These are the mandatory standards that must be taken into consideration in the design and development of all new and upgraded buildings, including sport and recreation facilities. However, like most standards in Australia, these provide minimum design requirements and dimensions only. Working towards universal design not only incorporates the use of minimum standards, but in many instances identifies the key considerations to enhance the effective use of buildings and facilities by all people. An amendment to the Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010 was issued on 22 September 2010.
Building Code of Australia
The BCA provides uniform building requirements throughout the nation, replacing the need for individual state and territory regulation.
States and territories, from time to time, amend the BCA by means of variations in the BCA appendix or one off modifications granted by the Building Appeals Board to cater for certain situations. These amendments should be checked carefully to ensure that particular state or territory requirements do not inadvertently promote less accessible environments. The Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010 was introduced on 1 May 2011 in line with an updated BCA.
These will take primacy over any state or territory requirements or amendments.
Like all regulatory documents, the BCA is continually revised and should be checked to ensure the latest updates are referred to and utilised in all building works.
Regulations catering for access (for people with a disability)
Within the BCA, specific relevance is made to Access for People with Disabilities (part D3). These requirements apply to most classes of buildings, (with particular exemptions and concessions), including:
Class 1b Buildings
Class 1b buildings include short-term holiday accommodation, boarding houses, bed and breakfast, guest houses and hostels.
Class 2 Buildings
Class 2 buildings include buildings containing two or more sole occupancy units each being a separate dwelling.
Class 3 Buildings
Class 3 buildings include residential buildings (other than class 1 or 2 buildings), for example, lodging houses, backpacker’s accommodation, the residential part of a hotel or motel, the residential part of a school, accommodation for the aged, people with disabilities, children, the residential part of a health-care facility accommodating staff or a residential part of a detention centre.
Class 5 Buildings
Class 5 buildings include office buildings used for professional or commercial purposes (excluding Class 6, 7, 8, or 9 buildings).
Class 6 Buildings
Class 6 buildings include shops or other public retail premises such as cafes, restaurants, hairdressers, laundry, undertakers, markets, sale rooms, show rooms and service stations.
Class 7 Buildings
Class 7 buildings include public car parks, buildings for storage or display of goods or produce for sale by wholesale.
Class 8 Buildings
Class 8 buildings include laboratories and factories.
Class 9 Buildings
Class 9 buildings include health-care buildings, assembly buildings, trade workshops, laboratories which are part of schools and health care buildings.
Class 10 Buildings
Class 10 buildings include non-habitable structures such as private garages, carports, sheds and swimming pools.
BCA requirements state that people with a disability must have access to and within buildings required to be accessible by means of an accessway. All provisions must be in accordance with the requirements of Australian Standard (AS) 1428.
While the BCA requirements deal specifically with buildings (rather than outdoor facilities), they require that access be provided from the road boundary, from any accessible car-parking space or from any other associated building required to be accessible on the allotment.
The space between buildings is the continuous circulation path, and although not regulated by the BCA, must be accessible and free of barriers and hazards.
Accessing car-parking facilities is also outlined in the BCA under Part D3.
Requirements for providing sanitary facilities for people with a disability are described in the BCA Part F2.
Planning ordinances are requirements that have great potential for enhancing access to sporting and recreation facilities, both indoor and outdoor.
Planning regulations create a framework for the design and development of the built environment taking into account infrastructure, urban density, neighbourhood character, site landscaping, energy efficiency, visual and acoustic privacy, the building envelope, parking and vehicular access, access for pedestrians, private and communal open space and site facilities.
State and local government planners check if development proposals conform to these guidelines and produce the desired outcomes before recommending that planning permits be granted either outright or conditionally. In addition, there are requirements that if proposals are not ‘as of right’, neighbouring owners and occupiers must be notified. They then have rights to object or appeal if they feel the proposed development is not in keeping with the ordinances and will adversely affect the amenity of the area.
Standards Australia has a suite of standards, AS 1428 ‘Design for Access and Mobility’, which relates specifically to the needs of people with a disability. These are detailed technical documents developed for Standards Australia by expert working parties drawn from industry and government agencies as well as individuals with specific expertise. These standards may be periodically amended and attention must be given to all relevant updates.
A number of these standards are referenced by the Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010, and must be adhered to as a minimum in the design of new and upgraded buildings. Many of the requirements and recommendations of these Standards are also equally relevant to many other building and facility users. For example:
- aligning light switches with door handles makes them easier to find in the dark
- rocker action switches can be used with an elbow when hands are full
- ramps in conjunction with steps, facilitate deliveries and removals as well as people using personal mobility aids such as wheelchairs, prams or shopping trolleys.
Currently AS 1428 'Design for Access and Mobility' comprises the following five parts.
Part 1: AS1428.1 2009 General Requirements for Access – New building work
This standard specifies the design requirements of new building work, as required by the BCA and the Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards, to provide access for people with a disability. Particular attention is given to:
- continuous accessible paths of travel and circulation spaces for people who use wheelchairs
- access and facilities for people with ambulatory disability
- access for people with sensory disability.
AS1428.1 2001 should also be referred to in the upgrade of buildings, in terms of minimum requirements, as it relates to unisex accessible toilets that may be exempt from upgrade to the larger dimensions specified in AS1428.1 2009 in accordance with the Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010.
Part 2: AS1428.2 1992 Enhanced and Additional Requirements - Buildings and Facilities
Under this section of the standard, provisions are advisory only and should be used where a better level of access is required, or where many people with a disability use the facility. Some dimensional requirements of this standard are now incorporated within AS1428.1-2009. In general the dimensions are larger, allowing access for a greater number of people wishing to effectively use the building or facility. This Standard will assist in determining some dimensions of a universally designed approach to building development and fit-out requirements, but nevertheless is still based on the needs of people with a disability, rather than all users.
Part 3: AS1428.3 1992 Requirements for Children and Adolescents with Physical Disabilities
This section is also advisory, and is intended for facilities primarily used by children, including play spaces, schools, child-care centres, information centres, museums and children's libraries, parks and gardens.
This standard has not been updated since 1993. This standard was made obsolescent on 18 June 2012. Where appropriate, it can be used for reference purposes.
Part 4: AS/NZS1428. 4.1 Means to assist the orientation of people with vision impairment - Tactile Ground Surface Indicators
Some sections of this standard are mandatory, in accordance with the Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010. It is intended to provide tactile and luminance and colour contrasting surfaces for people with vision impairment. It is particularly useful in outdoor areas and is intended to assist people with vision impairment to navigate independently. If installed correctly and maintained appropriately, the tactile elements do not disadvantage other users, and can in fact alert all users to safe routes and to potential hazards, such as stairs, the edge of a jetty or a sudden and dangerous change in level.
Part 5: AS1428.5 – 2010 Communication for people who are deaf or hearing impaired
This section is advisory and addresses the principles to consider when providing facilities for people who are deaf or hearing impaired, particularly regarding assistive listening devices and communication systems.
In addition to the AS 1428 suite of Australian Standards for Access and Mobility, a number of other Australian Standards are also relevant to particular access elements of buildings and facilities. These include:
- AS/NZ 2890.6 – 2009 parking facilities – This Standard specifies the minimum requirements for the provision of off-street parking facilities for people with disabilities
- AS 1735 – various parts and dates - specifies requirements for lifts, escalators and moving walks. There are a number of different parts to this suite of Standards that provide specifications relating to specific types of lifts and pedestrian conveyances.
There are also numerous other relevant Australian Standards covering specific issues such as play space areas and equipment, lighting and floor coverings.
Standards are constantly under review, so it is important to check that you are using the most recent issue at all times.
For further information or to purchase Australian Standards, go to Standards Australia.
The law explicitly recognises the right of everyone to participate in sport and recreation.