In this section, we are looking at what the minimum requirements are to ensure people with disability can move around inside buildings and access services and facilities.
The law says that for new buildings people with disability must be able to get to all parts of the building, safely move between levels of a building and locate features such as toilets or emergency exits.
This means that, for example:
- any reception area, office, meeting room, shop or café, bank of toilets, staff room, training room, outside courtyard or wheelchair space in a cinema or sports stadium must be able to be entered by a wheelchair user;
- facilities like male and female toilets must be identifiable by blind people through having Braille and tactile signs located outside every toilet;
- stairways must be able to be safely used by blind people;
- lifts must have audible and tactile information to assist in identifying what level the lift is on;
- lecture theatres, convention centres and or cinemas that have a built-in public address (PA) system must provide a means for people with hearing impairments to access the information, such as through the installation of a hearing loop or other technology; and
- at every bank of toilets there must be a unisex accessible toilet.
Figure 10: shows signage for a male toilet with raised tactile lettering and symbol and Braille
Some of the technical requirements for providing good access:
Any stairs must have access and safety features such as:
- handrails on both sides to assist people to safely move up and down;
- high contrast strips across the front of each step to assist people with low vision to judge where the edge of the step is;
- handrail extensions at the top and bottom of the stairs to allow people to steady themselves before going up or down the stairs; and
- tactile ground surface indicators (tgsi) at the top and bottom of stairs to alert blind people and people with low vision to the change in level ahead.
Figure 11: shows an example of a stairway with handrails on both sides, high contrast strips across the front of each step and tgsi at the bottom of the stairway
All doors must be at least 850 mm clear opening and have enough room on the latch-side of the door to allow someone using a wheelchair to pull in sidewards to reach over to grab the handle.
Corridors must be at least 1000 mm wide and wider around doorways where a wheelchair user has to turn into a room.
Figure 12: shows a good example of a wide corridor with plenty of room to allow a wheelchair user to turn into a room
Any frameless or fully glazed doors or office walls that might be mistaken for an opening must have a high contrast marking across them. This is to assist people with vision impairment to be able to identify the presence of the glazing and avoid injury caused by accidental contact.
The law does include some limitations to the requirement that all parts of a building must be accessible, for example, access is not required to the upper level of a two storey building where the upper level is less than 200 square metres. The law also allows for some concessions, for example, if a building has two banks of toilets on each level only one of the banks has to have an accessible unisex toilet.
In general, however, all new buildings should be designed and built to provide full access and if it doesn’t those responsible for the building could be subject to a discrimination complaint. If you see a new building that does not have good access you could also ask your local council to look into why it doesn’t.