In 2010, the Disability (Access to Premises-Buildings) Standards were introduced under the Disability Discrimination Act 2010.

The commencement date for these standards were set to May 1, 2011 which coincided with the commencement of the 2011 edition of the BCA. At this time the BCA as well as the referenced relevant Australian Standards AS 1428.1, AS1428.4.1 and AS2890.6 were also amended with a view to harmonising the two sets of legislation as much as possible.

In a response to the House of Representatives Standing Committee’s report preceding the Standards (Access All Areas) the Government had made a commitment to review the Standards within five years of their commencement.

The review has now been completed and a government response to the review is also now publicly available.

Written submissions were the main method implemented in gaining feedback regarding the Standards with people with a disability, carers and advocates forwarding the majority of the submissions received. Other groups who submitted responses were disability organisations; federal, local and state government departments; the accommodation industry; building certifiers, developers and managers; architects and designers; and industry associations.

The report stresses that the responses received were largely based on anecdotal information, but also suggests that evidence was present to support that the objects of the Standards have seen some gains made. The objects as stated by the Standards are:

(a)    to ensure that dignified, equitable, cost-effective and reasonably achievable access to buildings, and facilities and services within buildings, is provided for people with a disability; and,

(b)    to 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 these Standards, will not be unlawful under the Act.

The report suggests that a lack of substantive evidence meant that significant change to the Standards could not be considered. It also acknowledges that mechanisms and frameworks at all levels of government which would facilitate the accumulation of necessary performance related data are not currently present.

The themes of issues arising from the review are grouped as listed below:

Improving connections between the Premises Standards, the NCC and the Transport Standards;

  • An inadequate understanding and awareness of the Premises
  • A lack of a coordinated approach to performance-related data collection
  • A lack of a coherent governance structure for progressing reform of the Premises Standards

The recommendations to address the generic themes identified included:

  • Consider amendments to the Standards to better clarify their intent, interpretation and harmonisation with related legislature and Standards
  • To develop guidelines and training on key areas of the Standards
  • Develop guiding principles for the collection of data and coordinate the contribution of organisations able to collect data for future reviews
  • Develop a governance structure to oversee future review processes as well as expert advisory groups to provide technical advice and guidance

The government response to the review, which is also publicly available, is largely supportive of the recommendations. Many of these are supported without qualification, while others are supported in principle with the recommendation that they be referred to a future expert advisory group before adoption. Many items raised simply acknowledge a change in the BCA and seeks to realign the Standards with the change, several are editorial changes to improve interpretation.

Some examples raised from the report are summarised below to exemplify the nature of changes proposed and supported:

  • That the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science to work with the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development to consider ways to harmonise the Standards with the Accessible Public Transport 2002 (Transport Standards)
  • The inclusion of Performance Requirement DP7 in the Standards which addresses the use of lifts to assist people in evacuating buildings (already required for NCC compliance)
  • Amend clause associated with the floor area threshold of 200 square metres for each storey to only apply to the parts of each storey available to occupants with a disability and not exempted by Clause D3.4 (i.e. areas deemed ‘inappropriate’ or ‘pose a health or safety risk to people with a disability’)
  • Provide concession to providing tactile and Braille signage to sanitary facilities within sole occupancy units in Class 9c and 1b buildings
  • Consider whether accessible adult change facilities may be included in the Standards
  • An editorial change clarifying that signage and markings are exempted where less than a total of five car parking spaces are provided, but that all other requirements associated with an accessible car parking bay must be included
  • The inclusion of tactile and Braille exit signs (already required for NCC compliance)

The ‘next steps’ identified in the conclusions of the report include that a Premises Standards Governance Group under the leadership of the relevant federal government departments be established to oversee the implementation of the government’s response to the review. It suggests that expert advisory groups would then be established by the Governance Group as required for ongoing guidance, support and technical advice.

The date set for the completion of the next review of the Standards is May 1, 2021.

Click here to view the full report and government response.