It is not inconceivable for participants in the judicial system to have a disability. The design of courthouses and courtrooms, however, should not be such that it constitutes a barrier for a person that happens to have a disability when attending court, whether in the capacity of supporting their friend or loved one in court, or facing a charge, or pursuing legal redress, or acting as an advocate, or serving as a witness, a juror, or a judge.
The elimination, as far as practicable, of access that is discriminatory on the grounds of disability to premises is one of the objects of the federal Disability Discrimination Act 19921. The above object from the Act is no less applicable to a courthouse than any other type of public building.
This is not to say that accessible design in courthouses and courtrooms is not without its challenges. Consider, for example, that a courthouse would typically cater for multiple classes of users, including judges and magistrates, jurors, witnesses, persons in custody, members of the legal profession, and members of the public. In a typical courthouse and courtroom, the circulation paths and designated zones for the various classes of users would often be required to be predominantly segregated from each other.
This requirement can pose significant design challenges. It often necessitates the use of complex circulation paths. Such paths, in turn, require careful planning of the continuous accessible path of travel for people with a disability.
So long as the requirement for the participants to physically attend court remains central to the functioning of the judicial system, the ability of all participants to physically access courthouses will remain a threshold issue for a significant portion of the community, and the challenges of accessible design at courthouses will need to be confronted.
1See Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth), section 3.