New guidance on premises accessibility and wayfinding

Thu 21 February 2019

Accessibility sign next to building ramp

An integral part of being a disability confident organisation is ensuring all your employees, customers and stakeholders – existing and potential – are able to find and access your premises in a safe, equitable and dignified way.

In this article, we’ll look at three main changes to the National Construction Code relating to access for people with disability. We’ll also look at new wayfinding guidance from Standards Australia on the design and installation of static signage to assist people who are blind or have low vision navigate the built environment.

National Construction Code (2019)

The Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) has released a preview of the 2019 National Construction Code (NCC), which takes effect from 1 May 2019 for new or redeveloped buildings.

The NCC provides the minimum necessary requirements for safety and health; amenity and accessibility, and sustainability in the design, construction, performance and livability of new buildings (and new building work in existing buildings) throughout Australia.

The new NCC incorporates three main changes relating to access for people with disability:

  1. Accessible Adult Change Facilities 
  2. Verification method – access to and within buildings
  3. Verification method – ramp gradient, crossfall, surface profile and slip resistance for ramps used by wheelchairs

1. Accessible Adult Change Facilities

Accessible Adult Change Facilities are accessible bathrooms with additional features, such as hoists and adult change tables, to assist people with disability who are unable to independently use standard accessible facilities.

The new facilities must be provided in an accessible part of the following types of new or redeveloped buildings approved after 1 May 2019:

  • Shopping centre designed for not less than 3,500 shoppers
  • Sports venue designed for not less than 35,000 spectators 
  • Swimming pool with a perimeter of not less than 70 metres
  • Museum, art gallery or theatre designed for not less than 1,500 patrons
  • Passenger area of an airport terminal building

They must be designed in accordance with the new NCC specifications.

2. Verification method – access to and within buildings

The new NCC provides more detail on how to determine if a design meets Performance Requirements for building accessibility and other accessibility performance hurdles.

The approach requires comparison to a complying reference building and by analysing the occupant profile and characteristics to determine what level of access and facilities would be required. However, relying on current or intended occupant characteristics may work against people with disability as it seems contrary to universal design principles.

3. Verification method – ramp gradient, crossfall, surface profile and slip resistance for ramps used by wheelchairs

The new NCC method for verifying the access characteristics of a ramp involves calculations related to gradient, pushing force, braking force, project ascent time and cross fall. It provides more certainty to the building profession and, hopefully, more consistent outcomes for people who use ramps.

The National Construction Code (2019) can be downloaded for free from the ABCB website.

Wayfinding Standard

Standards Australia released its much-anticipated Wayfinding Standard in November 2018. The new Standard gives specific guidance on the design and installation of static signage to assist people who are blind or have low vision to navigate the built environment.

Likely to be a compulsory part of the NCC from 2022, the Standard should be understood and incorporated into design briefs now.

The main body of the Standard gives detailed examples and measurements for the design, location and installation of tactile signs at building and site entry points and for rooms and facilities.

The Appendices provide good context on:

  • Introduction to Wayfinding (the objectives of good wayfinding, making wayfinding an integrated system of directions, including hints in the architectural design and the importance of making pre-visit information available)
  • Orientation and mobility (guidance on the impact of blindness and low vision and the design principles which best assist in good wayfinding)
  • Guidance on signage design and illustrations of signage placement
  • Font and pictogram examples
  • Raised and tactile maps (location, design and placement)

The Wayfinding Standard can be purchased from the SAI Global Store.

Design for Dignity

These premises accessibility and wayfinding updates were kindly provided by our consultancy partner, Design for Dignity. For more information, download the full Design for Dignity Premises Accessibility Updates (Word, 116 KB).

Design for Dignity assists organisations to build dignified access into their upfront design, as well as mapping out practical strategies to improve existing products, services and premises.

The Australian Network on Disability’s Design for Dignity Retail Guidelines is a free resource to help retail business owners, service providers, shopping centre owners and managers, designers, builders and certifiers gain an understanding of how to make the shopping experience for people with disability more independent, pleasurable and dignified.


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