One of the most significant documents that has been introduced by the Commonwealth Government is the Disability Access to Premises Standards requiring in principle access to:

  • 1. Accessible paths of travel to the main door or doors
  • 2. Car Parks
  • 3. Accessible paths inside the building to all services and facilities
  • 4. Doorways
  • 5. Toilets
  • 6. Goods, services and facilities

 

 

*There are a number of reasons why this is significant.

First, the guiding principles of the Premises Standards are the objects of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) (DDA), which are:

 

  • to eliminate, as far as possible, discrimination against persons on the basis of their disabilities in various areas, and in particular access to premises, work, accommodation and the provision of facilities, services and land;

  • to ensure, as far as practicable, that persons with disabilities have the same rights to equality before the law as the rest of the community; and

  • to promote recognition and acceptance within the community of the principle that persons with disabilities have the same fundamental rights as the rest of the community.

 

Second, the purpose of the Premises Standards is:

 

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

  • to give certainty to building certifiers, developers and managers that if the Standards are complied with they cannot be subject to a successful complaint under the DDA in relation to those matters covered by the Premises Standards.

 

Third, it is unlawful to contravene the Premises Standards.

 

Fourth, the Premises Standards specify how the objects of the DDA are to be achieved in the provision of accessible buildings.

 

Finally, the Premises Standards prescribe national requirements for new buildings and where new building work is being undertaken in existing buildings in order to comply with the DDA in the areas and for the buildings covered by these Standards.

 

There is no doubt that the introduction of the Premises Standards will lead to widespread and important improvements in the accessibility and safety of all new and upgraded public buildings in Australia.

 

These changes will improve the opportunities for people with disability to participate in and contribute to the economic, cultural, social and political life of our community as equal citizens.

 

The changes will also assist in creating a more sustainable built environment capable of responding to our changing circumstances and our family and community needs.

 

All of us will benefit from these changes as our individual capacity changes over time.

 

The changes will also require the development of new skills, knowledge and approaches from those in the building industry including developers, designers and architects, builders, project managers, certifiers and building operators.

 

The implementation of the Premises Standards, and corresponding changes to the Building Code of Australia, will inevitably raise some questions and result in some challenges. A review of the Premises Standards must start by 1 May 2015 and be completed by 1 May 2016 and this will provide us with an early opportunity to address any issues that arise.

 

In the meantime this Guideline will be updated from time to time as experience in implementation and interpretation develops.

It is important to note that complying with the Premises Standards does not mean those responsible for buildings are fulfilling all their responsibilities in relation to possible discrimination under the DDA. Another article identifies a number of areas where complaints of discrimination may still be made in relation to the use of buildings even if the Premises Standards has been complied with.

 

*Extracted from the Human Rights Commission's Guidelines on the Application of the Premises Standards.

For further information about how to better understand the application and content of the Premises Standards, please see the Australian Human Rights Commission’s publication Guideline on the Application of the Premises Standards which can be found at http://www.humanrights.gov.au/disability_rights/standards/PSguide.html

To obtain a copy of the Premises Standards, a copy can be downloaded at http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/F2010L00668

Technical compliance questions can be directed to suitably qualified and experienced professionals in the design, construction and certification area such as an architect, building surveyor or Local Government Building Certifier. State and territory building control administration bodies may be able to provide assistance with technical compliance questions.