A landmark court ruling in Queensland ordering the rectification of numerous poor design aspects of a multi-billion dollar hospital has established a long overdue precedent for people who are legally blind under the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1991 and will hopefully lead to substantial changes in the way major public buildings are designed to assist visually impaired people.
On July 7th 2021, Judge Jarrett of the Federal Circuit Court in Brisbane handed down his decision in the Ryan v SCHHS complaint.
The complaint was made under the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1991 (DDA) by Mr Peter Ryan, a man who was legally blind. He complained that he had experienced disadvantage and discrimination in the way access was provided for him to and within the Sunshine Coast University Hospital (SCUH), a hospital that was constructed under a Private Public Partnership (PPP) and purportedly complied with the National Construction Code (NCC) and the Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010 (DAPS) at a cost of almost $2 billion.
The building won numerous awards for its design including the F. D. G. Stanley Award for Public Architecture from the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA).
Mr Ryan alleged that the SCHHS in constructing the SCUH breached s.6, 23, 24 and 32 of the DDA. Further he alleged that the SCHHS also breached parts of the DAPS. It is interesting to note that the DAPS also mirrors some parts of the NCC. The building was issued with a certificate of classification by a building certifier, meaning this building certifier deemed that the SCUH complied with the NCC.
In a separate action Mr Ryan complained to the Queensland Building & Construction Commission claiming the certifier was guilty of professional misconduct, however the QBCC disagreed and determined in fact that the building certifier had not erred in his assessment or acted unprofessionally. His assessment relied on the opinion of an access consultant. The QBCC determined there was no professional misconduct despite the obvious conflict of interest as the Building Certification firm and the Access Consultants for the project were one in the same, although they are separate entities, they have common ownership and work from the same offices.
Judge Jarrett, in his decision, determined that in fact the SCHHS had breached clauses D3.2(1), D3.8(1) and D3.12 of the DAPS and s.6, s.23, s.24 and s.32 of the DDA. Judge Jarrett has made orders on August 4th 2021 that the SCHHS must immediately undertake work to address these breaches
- Address the breach of the DAPS regards the incorrect placement of tactile ground surface indicators at a pedestrian surface at grade with a roadway
- Provide additional directional and warning TGSI’s to connect the hospital main building entrance to the public transport station, the short-term car parking area and the pick up/set down area
- Address non-compliant luminance contrast of tactile ground surface indicators within the existing installations in the forecourt area
- Refinish all bollards within the forecourt area to have a minimum 30% luminance contrast with the surface they are viewed against
- Refinish all seats and columns within the forecourt area to have 30% luminance contrast with the ground surface
- Install new solid non-transparent visual indicators to all glazing and glazed doors at the southern entrance
- Install new vertical luminance contrasting strips to doors frames at both entrances to provide 30% luminance contrast with a minimum width of 50mm
- Provide a solid, non-transparent continuous visual indicator which provides a minimum 30% luminance contrast to the floor or background surface within 2 metres
- Provide luminance contrast of 30% at the base of all free standing signs within the building when measured against the floor
- Remove wall surfaces within the lift lobbies to remove all polished surfaces
- Relocate couches from shorelines to ensure a continuous accessible path of travel where these do not provide a minimum 30% luminance contrast against the floor/wall
- Replace all directory, directional signs within lift lobbies with raised tactile and Braille signs
- Replace all information, directory, directional (including maps), ward identification, ward
signs, and all room signs within the entire hospital with raised tactile and Braille signs which have a minimum cap height of 15mm (12mm for maps) and which have all information beings of 30% luminance contrast with the background surface apart from the Braille
- Ensure all raised tactile information of these signs is located between 1200mm and 1600mm AFFL
- Replace all external wayfinding signs with raised tactile and Braille signs including maps
- Paint all walls and columns in all corridors throughout the entire hospital so that they have a minimum 30% luminance contrast with the floor; and
- Refinish all vinyl floor surfaces to remove the polished surface finish and to return the surface to its original matte finish.
This landmark decision establishes a long overdue precedent for people who are legally blind under the DDA, raises some serious questions about some Australian Standards, the NCC and the Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards and the conduct of the QBCC.
Hopefully, this decision will be the catalyst to making both the NCC and DAPS more relevant to the wayfinding needs of people who are legally blind, ensuring the matters raised by Mr Ryan and determined by the Federal Circuit Court are not replicated in future buildings. All people involved in the design and construction of all commercial and public buildings, and the provision of advice regards access to and within buildings need to be mindful of Judge Jarrett’s decisions and orders in this matter which clearly establishes new minimum standards for accessibility for people who are legally blind.
On a sad note, unfortunately Mr Ryan passed away in April this year, too late to hear what would have been a wonderful outcome for him and a testament to his years of advocating for improved access for people who have legal blindness or have disabilities.
ACAA – ACCREDITED MEMBER
CERT IV – ACCESS CONSULTING
LHA ACCREDITED ASSESSOR
SDA ACCREDITED ASSESSOR
Managing Director, Wayfinding Australia Pty Ltd
SENIOR Access Consultant
Bryce is the Managing Director of Wayfinding Australia Pty Ltd, a Company based on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland which provides the
- Disability Access (DDA, ADA, NCC)
- Wayfinding Design
- Environmental Graphic Design
- Pedestrian Movement Studies
- Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA Housing)
- Livable Housing Australia
The practice is currently providing consultancies to over 50 projects being designed or under construction. Major projects which the practice has consulted to include:
- Gold Coast University Hospital ($1.1b Teaching Hospital)
- Moreton Bay Rail Link
- Commonwealth Games Village – Gold Coast
Over the years Bryce’s knowledge, particularly in the area of sensory wayfinding has resulted in his involvement in a number of research projects including:
- Main Roads Queensland – Pedestrian Line Marking
- CRC – Construction Innovation – Wayfinding in the Built Environment
- Queensland Health – Wayfinding Collaborative
Bryce is a professional member of the following organisations:
- Association of Consultants in Access Australia Inc – Accredited (ACAA)
- Society for Environmental Graphic Design – Professional (USA)
- Livable Housing Australia – Registered Assessor
- NDIA SDA Accredited Assessor
Bryce is currently appointed to or has been a past member of the following committees:
- ACAA Management Committee (National)
- ACAA Membership Committee (National)
- 4.2– Design for access and mobility – Wayfinding
- 6 – Design for access and mobility – Fixtures and fittings
Since 2003, Bryce Tolliday has provided expert testimony in over 25 Disability Discrimination complaints under both Federal and State jurisdictions.