Upcoming Changes and Updates to Accessibility Standards

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31 March 2022

There’s a lot of change happening in the accessibility space. Senior Access Consultant Peter Bedford goes through the major changes and encourages everyone in the industry to stay alert and aware of what’s on the horizon.

There’s a lot of change happening in the accessibility space. Senior Access Consultant Peter Bedford goes through the major changes and encourages everyone in the industry to stay alert and aware of what’s on the horizon.

Major accessible building changes are coming 

Most people in the building industry are aware that a new National Construction Code (NCC) will be adopted later this year. Although this is scheduled for adoption by the states and territories on September 1, a preview will be made available on 9 May 2022.

There is also a new version of AS1428.1 Design for Access and Mobility which was published on 18 June 2021. Despite being published last year, this version will not supersede the current version (2009) until it is referenced in the Building Code of Australia (BCA).

What isn’t known is whether or not the NCC 2022 will reference the 2021 version of AS1428.1, although some certifiers that we speak regularly to think that it will. There are also some architects, project managers and building contractors out there who think that AS1428.1-2021 has already superseded the 2009 version. This is not the case.

In the midst of the confusion, we can turn to history for a bit of guidance. Previous events tell us that the 2009 version of the Standard was not included into the BCA until 2011, so it may not happen this year – we shall have to wait and see.

Notwithstanding the facts above, as access consultants will need to be conversant with any changes from the 2009 version as soon as the 2021 becomes referenced in the BCA. To ensure we are prepared, MGAC have already started to review the 2021 version to stay on top of all the changes. This is some of what we’ve learnt so far.

Details of the Standard changes  

The first change is to the numbering of the clauses, hence the place within the Standard where it used to be (I know I can guess fairly quickly roughly where a section is in the 2009 version, but it looks like I’m going to have to re-learn this!).

The second thing I’ve noticed is subtle changes to the wording in some clauses (but not all). In general, this is useful and further limits the possibilities of misinterpretation which can (and does) happen with the current 2009 version.

There’s also a new section in Floor and Ground Surfaces for boardwalks covering the size of the gaps between boards. This is particularly relevant to elements I covered in my last blog on the edges of accessways.

A number of updates stood out to me:

·       One of the options for the edge of the accessway was to install a minimum 450mm high wall – the 2021 Standard deletes the 450mm dimension.

·       A curved ramp is now defined

·       Stair nosing strips are to be single (not multi-strips)

·       Handrail heights on landings can vary

·       The obstruction zone below handrails has increased from 15mm to 25mm

·       The 300mm door reveal has been re-introduced (remember it was in 2001 but not in 2009?)

·       The 900mm square circulation space outside ambulant cubicles has been clarified as being either/or of the figures.

OK, short break for your brain.

And back into it!

·       Door closers on doors other than fire/smoke doors to have a delay action or a hold-open feature

·       Manual push-button controls for an auto-door to be 500mm to 1000mm from door swing now

·       WC seats are to remain in upright position when raised

·       Back-rests are not to be included in accessible SOUs

·       Toilet rolls can’t project more 150mm from wall

·       Grabrails can be 800mm to 820mm affl

·       WC pan circulation to be clear of shower seat in upright position

·       Shower wall outlet dimension deleted

·       New Figures added for combined WC and shower compartments

In short, there’s a lot of changes to take in. There’s also a new Appendix covering vision impairment (Appendix C). The summary of specifications for walkways, ramps and landings has been deleted.

To help our clients and other MGAC colleagues understand the changes, I have highlighted all the new stuff in my copy of the 2021 version. I’ve also added notes about deleted text which makes things a lot easier and will allow me to better explain to building designers what’s changed.

As always, the MGAC team is here to support all our clients and industry colleagues to understand these changes and how they affect their projects and procedures. We encourage you to reach out to us directly if you have any queries you would like us to field.

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