The purpose of the Disability (Access to Premises-Buildings) Standards is to improve the accessibility of public buildings. These standards are part of the Australian Government’s social inclusion agenda to give all Australians, particularly people with disability, better access to a wider range of public buildings. Improved building access enhances opportunities to access employment, education and services, and to connect with the broader community. These standards came into operation on 1 May 2011 and are part of the National Disability Strategy’s vision of a society with inclusive and accessible communities.

The purpose of the Premises Standards is to ensure greater and dignified access to and use of buildings for people with a disability and also provide certainty to the building industry.

The Premises Standards set performance requirements and technical specifications for non-discriminatory access. The Standards also provide a practical and on-going means to improved building access, by requiring that all new buildings, together with modifications of existing buildings that require a building approval, meet the Standards.

The Premises Standards now apply to all new buildings of the specified classes. Where new building work is undertaken on an existing building, such as an extension or renovation, the new or modified part of the building is now required to comply with the Premises Standards. Specific access requirements are not imposed on existing buildings outside the area of the new work, except in some cases to provide for an accessible path of travel from the principal pedestrian entrance to the new or modified part of the building.

These standards now apply to any new public buildings, plus new apartment blocks in which there is one or more short-term rental units or existing building upgrades for which an application for building approval is made after 1 May 2011. The term ‘public building’ includes places such as hotels, tourist accommodation, retail premises, commercial and industrial buildings, transport facilities, government buildings, theatres and cinemas.

New residential apartment buildings are required to have at least one wheelchair accessible entrance and access to the doorway of all sole occupancy units on at least one entire floor. Wheelchair access is also required for all common use rooms; such as garbage rooms, gyms, pools and garden areas.

The Premises Standard and changes to the Building Code Australia introduced some new access requirements including:

•   Increases in the number of accessible entrances and doorways to buildings
•   Increases in circulation space requirements such as in lifts, accessible toilets and at doorways
•   Signage in relation to accessible facilities
•   The introduction of a requirement for passing and turning spaces for wheel chairs on passageways in some situations
•   The types of lifts and access features within lifts
•   The introduction of requirements for access into certain public swimming pools.

If you have any queries in relation to the new disability requirements, and if your business is required to make changes, contact the experienced team of lawyers here at The Quinn Group. For more information on the disability requirements and what they entail submit an online enquiry or call us on 1300 QUINNS (784 667) or on +61 2 9223 9166 to book an appointment.