«Guidance on the regulatory documents for disability access for premises and their application Revised legal requirements regarding disability access ...»
Guidance on the regulatory documents for disability
access for premises and their application
Revised legal requirements regarding disability access to premises have applied since 2011.
This advice provides revision of some basic information, including identification of the
relevant regulatory documents that are to be considered by building professionals in the
design and construction of buildings so as to comply with required access provisions.
The building surveyor will have to reject an application for a Certificate of Likely Compliance if the design process had not considered disability access to premises requirements, as the application would then not be in accordance with the Building Act 2000.
Know the different Disability Access to Premises documents Which Access to Premises documents should an Accredited Building Practitioner be familiar with?
Designers, builders and assessors of building work should become familiar with the following regulatory documents to ensure compliance with access to premises requirements.
1. Building Code of Australia The Building Code of Australia 2013 (Volume One of the National Construction Code series) is the legal standard for the design of building work on any Class 2 – 9 buildings in Tasmania. Since its 2011 edition, the BCA in Part D3 has incorporated revised access provisions that are almost identical to the provisions in the Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010.
Part D3 of Volume One contains the provisions for access for persons with a disability.
The Tasmania Appendix to BCA Volume One, Section D, Access and Egress, includes the Tas Performance Requirements and at Tas D3, Deemed-to-Satisfy Provisions.
The following three documents are also “referenced” in the Tasmanian Appendix to the
2. Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010 The Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010 is subordinate legislation (regulations) made under the Commonwealth’s Disability Discrimination Act 1992. It covers general building access requirements. It is referenced in the Tasmania Appendix to the BCA
as a document to:
assist in the interpretation of the provisions in BCA Part D3; and provides for any exemptions or concessions in the Access to Premises Standards to apply to building work in Tasmania.
The Access to Premises Standards is available from the Commonwealth Attorney -General’s Department website: Australian Attorney-General or from the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) website: Human Rights Australia
3. Disability Discrimination Act 1992 Section 3 of this Commonwealth Act states the objectives of the Act as the basic principles to be achieved in eliminating discrimination and providing equal access to premises for persons with a disability. The Act is referenced in the Tasmanian Appendix to the BCA to allow, in some circumstances, for a clearer interpretation of the BCA or the Access to Premises Standards by reference to those objectives. This Act is available from the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department website: Australian Attorney-General or from a link from the AHRC website: Human Rights Australia
4. Australian Standard AS1428.1: 2009 This Australian Standard covers general technical requirements for the design for access and mobility. Because AS1428.1 is referenced in the BCA and in the Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010, compliance with its provisions satisfies compliance with BCA Volume One Part D3. Australian Standards are available for purchase from SAI Global
Other guidance document
Guideline on the application of the Premises Standards This is a guidance document (but not a regulatory document) written for building professionals and those concerned with access requirements, to better understand how the provisions of the Access Premises Standards are applied to new or existing buildings. It was first published by the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2011 and a new version was published in March 2013. This Guideline is available from the AHRC website: Human Rights Australia Application of access to premises requirements New buildings Consideration of the requirements for disability access is required for all new buildings, other than for a Class 1a and for nearly all types of Class 10 buildings. If a Class 10a building is to be used as sanitary facilities, then disability access requirements will apply to that building.
New building work on existing buildings Where new work is undertaken on an existing building, such as an extension, alteration, addition or renovation, the new or modified part of the existing building will be required to comply with the disability access requirements.
The access requirements of the BCA, by reference to the Premises Standards, require in some circumstances that it is also necessary to provide an accessible path of travel from the principal public entrance to the new or modified part of the building.
If the nature of the work to be undertaken requires a building permit, then that part of the building will be required to be upgraded to comply with all current BCA requirements including disability access provisions.
Building work that does not require a building permit is either:
1. exempted from requiring a permit by regulation (4) of the Building Regulations 2004.
(The Regulations provide for particular buildings and structures of a minor nature that do not require a building permit. These also include repairs or maintenance if the work is done for maintenance purposes, using similar materials, fixtures, installations and components to those being replaced); or
2. a building surveyor has determined that it is either a minor repair or a minor alteration of that existing building. (A building surveyor may only determine that work is a minor repair or minor alteration if it if the cost of the work is under $5000 and it meets criteria in the Building Regulations. Refer to section 60(2) of the Building Act 2000 and regulation 4B of the Building Regulations 2004).
Note that generally:
extensions and additions to a building are not exempt from a permit as they are new building work; and work such as painting and decorating, joinery and installing shop furniture and fittings are not building work, do not require a building permit and would not trigger application of access to premises requirements.
Do disability access considerations also apply to a “minor alteration or a minor repair”?
Yes, as what the building surveyor is actually deciding under section 60(2) of the Building Act is whether the proposed alteration or repair is sufficiently “minor” for the owner not to need a building permit. They are not deciding on the standard of the work to be applied. The Building Act 2000 section 55(1) provides that all building work and the use and maintenance of buildings are to comply with the BCA and the Act. Where the relevant building surveyor is assessing work to give their opinion under s.60 (2) of the Building Act, that the work consists of “minor alterations” or “minor repairs”, they are then exercising an “approval” function as the competent authority.
Hence, under section 55(1) of the Building Act the BCA is the standard for all new building work including minor alterations. An owner may not have to obtain a building permit, but the actual work performed must comply with the BCA. That will include those provisions in Part D3 of the BCA for disability access for that particular alteration.
Examples of where a proposed “minor alteration” should give rise to access
moving office partitions or changing doors;
“modernising” the door furniture latches with new fittings;
replacing a non-compliant hinged door at the main entry point of the building.
Change of use of a building If a change of use of a building (from one Class to another) requires that building work is to be done, then a building permit must be obtained. The work is to comply with current BCA access provisions. If the change of use does not require building work, then a new occupancy permit is required. That new occupancy permit would not require the building to be upgraded to current BCA requirements.
Alternative Solutions for disability access While the Deemed-to-Satisfy (DTS) is one way of meeting the BCA performance requirements, the other is by an alternative solution. Some design and assessment practitioners have however taking a view that compliance with AS1428 is the only practical method and an alternative solution proposal that is not exactly the same as the standard would never be compliant. This view is incorrect and fails to properly consider the guidance in the BCA and other documents as to what an alternative solution is meant to achieve.
Reference is made to page 15 of the Guideline on Application of the Premises Standard (published by the Australian Human Rights Commission and updated in February 2013) at
clause A.9.1 “Alternative Approaches”:
“The Premises Standards allows for innovative solutions to meet the Performance Requirements of the Access Code … so long as the proposed solution satisfies the Performance Requirements of the Access Code”.
Reference is also made to BCA Vol 1 to Parts AO.8 (Assessment Methods) and AO.9.
(Performance Requirements). Part A0.9 provides four methods of assessment that may be used to determine compliance with the performance requirements.
In A0.9 the assessment method at clause (d) allows the use of expert judgement to assess whether a building solution complies with the performance requirements. If an access consultant is used as an expert, then they can give advice according to the relevant performance requirements that are relevant to the alternative solution. If the alternative solution complies with the performance requirements then it can be accepted by the building surveyor. Access consultants therefore may be used as advisors (experts) to establish what are the relevant performance requirements and why the alternative solution complies with them.
It is the role of the building surveyor to consider alternative solutions. A building surveyor cannot issue a Certificate of Likely Compliance if not satisfied that it will be likely to comply with the BCA (either under DTS or as an alternative solution). They should reject that design until it is modified so that they are satisfied that it is likely to comply.
Exemptions and concessions The objectives supporting laws for access to premises allow, as far as possible, for equal and dignified access for persons with a disability to all types of commercial buildings. For any new building work, meeting this obligation falls on a building developer (owner or a lessee) a building certifier (a building surveyor, a building surveyor limited and a permit authority) and a building manager (ref. Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010).
It has been recognised during the development of these laws that in certain circumstances full compliance cannot be warranted or is unduly onerous. The BCA, Access to Premises Standards and the Building Act 2000 therefore provide for some limited exemptions or concessions from access to premises provisions that can apply to building work in Tasmania.
BCA exemptions or concessions Small building exemption BCA clause D3.3(f) clause sets out an exemption from the requirement to provide accessible lifts and ramps to the upper storeys of small buildings of specific classes. This exemption reflects the assessment made when developing the Access to Premises Standards, that requiring access to every level of small buildings might cause unjustifiable hardship. The exemption applies only to Class 5, 6, 7b and 8 buildings with two or three storeys (that is a building with one or two storeys in addition to the entrance storey or level). This could be a building with one or two storeys above the entrance storey or below it.
This exemption does not apply to:
Specified Class 1b buildings (guest house, bed and breakfast or short-term accommodation type buildings) Class 2 buildings (sole occupancy units and apartments) Class 3 buildings (hotels, motels, hostels or similar accommodation) or Class 9a and Class 9b buildings (schools, universities, theatres, health-care or agedcare buildings) although these classes of building may not be required to provide access to upper floors of two and three storey buildings if the limits in Table D3.1 or the exemptions of D3.4 apply.
The exemption states that for a building containing not more than three storeys, if the size of an upper or lower storey (excluding the entrance storey) is less than 200 m², access via a passenger lift or ramp complying with AS 1428.1 is not required to the other storeys. This means that if either of the upper (or lower) storeys is over 200 m², access in the form of a ramp or lift must be provided to all storeys.
Example 1: If the entrance storey of a three-storey building was 3000 m² and the two other storeys were 180 m² access would only be required to the entrance storey.
Example 2: If the entrance storey of a three-storey building was 600 m², the first storey was also 600 m² and the second storey was only 150 m², access would be required via a passenger lift or ramp complying with AS 1428.1 to all levels. (That is because the first storey of 600 m2 is larger than the 200 m2 specified by that clause).
Although paragraph D3.3(f) states that access via a ramp or lift is not required to certain storeys or levels, all other accessible features required by the BCA, such as features on stairways and required signage, (except accessible unisex sanitary compartments and accessible unisex showers (see Clause F2.4(i)), are required on the non-entrance storey or levels.
Inappropriate to access an area BCA clause D3.4 provides for a limited exemption from the general requirement that all
parts of a building are to be accessible to persons with a disability: