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Designers, Developers, Building Surveyors and Owners Face Litigation

  • January 26, 2008
  • Bruce Bromley

12061643861024The DDA, BCA & Australian Standards are highly complex and subject to constant change. Litigation over property access and compliance is increasing at an astounding rate. Property and business owners are subject to substantial and often unexpected liability.

In addition the failure of designs to meet these legislative requirements leaves all parties responsible for a projects delivery open to litigation.

A lack of understanding particularly of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 is at the forefront of design issues. The DDA makes disability discrimination unlawful and aims to promote equal opportunity and access for people with disabilities.

Particular extracts of relevance are as follows.

Section 3 : Objectives of the DDA
The DDA seeks to:

  • Eliminate discrimination against persons on the grounds of disability in: work, accommodation, education, access to premises, clubs and sport; and the provision of goods, facilities, services and land;
  • Ensure that persons with disabilities have the same rights to equality before the law as the rest of the community; and
  • Promote recognition and acceptance within the community that persons with disabilities have the same rights as the rest of the community.

Section 23 : Discrimination in access to & use of premises

Unless unjustifiable hardship applies, a person must not be discriminated against because of the person’s disability, or the disability of any associate:

  • by denying access to or use of public premises;
  • in the terms or conditions for entry or use of such premises;
  • in the means of access to such premises;
  • by denying the use of public facilities in such premises;
  • in the terms or conditions for use of such facilities;
  • by being required to leave such premises or cease to use such facilities.

Non complying items we regularly see are;

  • Tactile Ground Surface Indicators incorrectly positioned.
  • Lack of contrast of TGSIs to backing substrate, ie we regularly see white TGSIs on light grey concrete.
  • Incorrect balustrade design including kerb/ kerb rails to ramps.
  • Lack of contrasting strips to glazing
  • Poor disabled toilet design.
  • Colour contrast to doors/door frames to walls.
  • Incorrect door circulation and opening size.
  • Incorrect gradients of ramps and excessive falls and location of carparking spaces.

Almost 4 million Australians have a disability. About 50% of people aged over 55 have difficulty with their mobility, hearing or vision. If we add their families, friends and work colleagues the number of people affected by disability and access issues is larger still.

Each of these people is a potential customer, client and employee.

1206164386103So good access to the buildings from which you operate and the services you provide makes good business sense. Good access also benefits others including parents of young children in prams; people with temporary illness of injury; older Australians; delivery people and shoppers with heavy bags or trolleys.

Improving access also helps businesses and service providers to meet existing legal responsibilities under discrimination law.

Disability Access Consultants should be included in all project teams from the schematic design phase to ensure that all building works is fully complying and accessible and remove the need for any future rework.