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Department of Justice

Disability access to buildings

Are there requirements that new buildings are accessible to the disabled?

Yes, new buildings and new parts of buildings are required by law to be accessible to the disabled, including access for persons with a physical impairment, features for the visually impaired and a sound loop for the hearing impaired.

What the types of buildings are affected?

  • All workplaces
  • All commercial and industrial buildings including shops, restaurants, cinemas
  • Private rental accommodation including flats, apartments and town houses
  • Short term accommodation including hotels, motels, guest houses. Also a group of four or more cabins let for tourist accommodation
  • A block of public toilets

Not covered by these laws are:

  • A single dwelling house or a detached unit
  • Non-habitable outbuildings associated with another building

What are the current legal requirements?

The Commonwealth's Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) has been the law for over 20 years and one of its objectives is to ensure that people with a disability have access to a range of public buildings.

Accessibility requirements for persons with a disability have also been included in building legislation and technical codes for a considerable time. In 2011 more stringent requirements were inserted into Volume One of the National Construction Code (NCC). The NCC access provisions mirror the requirements provided in the Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010, which are regulations of the Commonwealth of Australia. The benefit of this approach is that inconsistencies between the DDA and BCA are minimised and building owners and practitioners have a greater certainty of compliance with the law.

Both of these documents are the law in Tasmania – the NCC providing technical requirements, the Access Standards providing some additional exemptions or clarification on the application of the NCC provisions.

New buildings

Full compliance with the disability access provisions of the NCC is required.

Existing buildings

Alterations that require a building permit will require that an existing building, or the part undergoing the work, are to comply with the NCC disability access provisions.

Existing buildings, where no building work is to be carried out, are not required to upgraded to current NCC standards, including compliance with disability access requirements.

Examples of accessible features of a building

The following are some examples of the accessibility features that may be required in or associated with buildings. Not every building will require every feature - that will depend on the location and use of the building.

The Australian Standard AS1428 (2009) "Design for Access and Mobility" Part 1: General Requirements for Access – New Building Work is referenced by the BCA as the legal technical requirement for new building work.


Indoors

  • Doorways - minimum clear opening is 850mm. Circulation spaces provided at doorways with swinging doors and sliding doors
  • Internal walkways and paths of travel to exits 1m wide as a minimum
  • Doors, architraves and skirting painted in a contrasting colour to assist people with vision impairment
  • Compliant door handles and hardware suitable for hinged or sliding doors
  • Toilets - may include an accessible toilet (may be unisex facility) or a fully wheelchair accessible toilet with circulation space
  • Wide enough toilet doorway and circulation space (location of grab rails, and toilet roll holders are important)
  • Bathrooms - circulation space required
  • Showers - provide a step-free floor area and grab rails
  • Hand basin – free access space under basin for wheelchair access
  • Tables, counters and benches - business reception counters should be accessible to a person in a wheelchair
  • Signage - not less than 1400mm or more than 1600mm above floor level, and a simple font (typeface) such as Arial is preferred

Outdoors

  • Pathways and ramps to buildings and car parking – sufficient width to allow passing at bays and walkways and may require a landing depending on the gradient
  • Ramps - the maximum gradient is 1:14 for up to 9m long and 1:20 for a ramp up to 15m long
  • Hand rails and kerbs – fitted with hand rails on both sides of path or kerb
  • Tactile Ground Surface Indicators to assist vision impaired
  • Off street parking – provide designated spaces and continuous path of travel to building entrance
  • Steps – provide hand rails on both sides and contrasting nosing strip

Practice Note for building practitioners   

Disability Access Guidance provides more details on disability access requirements, including:

    • Regulatory documents explained
    • Application to existing buildings
    • Exemption or concessions

Other disability access to premises publications