New disability access requirements from 1 May 2011

Important information for:

  • builders
  • building designers
  • property owners
  • building certifiers
  • building surveyors
  • building developers
  • building managers
  • property developers
  • project managers
  • property lessees
  • building operational staff
  • other building professionals

From 1 May 2011 most new buildings and alterations to certain pre-existing buildings must comply with the Disability (Access to Premises — Buildings) Standards 2010 (Access standards) made under the Commonwealth’s Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA).

The Access standards were published in March 2010 and describe:

  • when they must be complied with - Erection or alteration of most buildings except certain class 1 houses and associated class 10 buildings.
  • exceptions and concessions - For example:
    • Unjustified hardship exceptions (eg unjustifiable costs of retrofitting a lift into a pre-existing building).
    • Sub-lessee exceptions (eg the tenant of only 1 floor of a building does not have control of other floors to enable building modifications for disability access through other floors).
    • Commission concessions (concessions granted by the Australian Human Rights Commission).
    • Lift and toilet concessions (eg certain accessible pre-existing lifts and toilets may not need to be enlarged to provide greater disability access).
  • how to comply - For example when lifts must be built or retrofitted, lift dimensions and features
  • who must comply - See the list of people above.

The Building Code of Australia 2011 (BCA 2011) mirrors the Access standards, so compliance with BCA 2011 achieves compliance with the Access standards.

Failure to comply with the Access standards from 1 May 2011 will be an unlawful contravention of the DDA, and exposes the people listed above to risks of litigation from claims of unlawful discrimination on the basis of access to premises. Compliance with the Access standards reduces the risk.

However, BCA 2011 and the Access standards both require differing degrees of disability access to class 2 buildings (apartments, units etc). BCA 2011 has more stringent requirements for class 2 buildings than the Access standards.

The building approval (BA) process in the ACT will be harmonised with the Access standards from 1 May 2011.

Failure to comply from 1 May 2011 may result in refusal of your BA.

More information on the Disability Discrimination Act is available from:

More information on concessions applying to BCA 2011 to certain pre-existing buildings is available from:

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