On 2 December 2008, draft Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards, together with a number of associated documents, were tabled in the House of Representatives
The Government proposes to refer the draft Access to Premises Standards to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs and to ask the Committee to conduct consultations on the draft Premises Standards and to report to Parliament in the first half of 2009.
The overall aim of the Premises Standards is twofold. First it is to provide the building and design industry with detailed information about how they can design and construct their buildings in a way that meets their responsibilities under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). Second it is to improve access to buildings for people with a disability to ensure the greatest possible participation in the social, economic, cultural and political life of the community.
This is the primary document that will eventually form the Premises Standards. It consists of two major parts. The first part deals with all the regulation requirements for the Premises Standards, who they apply to, scope, definitions, concessions and a review timetable.
The second part is ‘Schedule 1 Access Code for Buildings’. This is the part that contains all the requirements for access to buildings. It is written in the style of the access provisions of the BCA and includes all the detail of where and in what buildings access is required. It covers issues like numbers of accessible entrances, where Braille signage needs to be provided, the number and location of accessible toilets and spaces in cinemas and the use of tactile ground surface indicators.
In general this Access Code tells those responsible for buildings when and where access is required and then refers to technical specification documents such as Australian Standard 1428.1 to describe how to design and build in an accessible way.
An important point to note is that the Premises Standards will only apply to new buildings and new work (renovations) on existing buildings. However, an existing building not undergoing any new work could still be subject to the current complaint mechanisms of the law.
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