Do I need to provide disability access in my new office?

Do I need to provide a disability accessible toilet?

When we fit out my new office, do we need to provide a disability accessible toilet? The answer is yes, and no. Yes, because of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), which means you need to provide disabled facilities for disabled people. In certain circumstances, you aren’t required to install a disability accessible toilet. For example, if the tenancy is part of a multi-unit development and the landlord is responsible for all the core amenities, which means it isn’t your responsibility to provide disabled toilets. Another instance where you wouldn’t be required to install a disabled toilet is where you have an upstairs floor of less than 200sq that you are fitting out as a tenant. Engaging a professional to look at your space will help you determine whether you are required to comply or not.

If I’m relocating or refurbishing, do I need to provide disability access?

Yes, you must comply with the DDA for any new works that you do. This includes paths of travel, door widths, side latch clearance for a wheelchair to be able to pull up and open and more. Exemptions can be provided in some cases, such as a heritage building where it’s impossible to provide disability access to all parts of the floor, or where it where it provides unjustifiable hardship to the tenant to install a lift.

What are the repercussions if I don’t comply with the DDA when I do my new office?

The first step is doing a building permit which identifies any non-compliant factors. If you complete the works to a non- compliant standard, someone acting in a litigious way on behalf of a disabled, or a disabled person, could take you to the Victorian Civil & Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) on a human rights charge, on the basis of not providing disability access. It doesn’t happen a lot, however you are vulnerable to this, which is why you need to address disability access when you’re designing your new office.

What is some advice for designers?

Some advice from me for interior designers, if you’re new or old in the game, you need a working knowledge of the basics of the DDA compliance rules. This will ensure that your design doesn’t get trashed when it goes to compliance review stage. You may have designed a stunning reception and completed elevations etc., and then when it goes through compliance stage it gets cut back and doorway widths get changed to allow for latch side clearances to enable a disabled person to pull to one side open the door. Your beautiful rule of thirds or fifths or how you divided up that space is completely changed. If you have a working grasp of those key elements, then your beautiful project won’t be ruined by compliance alterations. This is part of professional development, as it is crucial for every interior designer to have this background. And then as you’re designing, you can make the DDA work for you, not against you.

Please call me if you’ve got any questions on how your new office or office you would like to refurbish can comply easily and cost effectively on 0439 002 575. We’re here to help you and we can share some strategies on how we helped others achieve their compliance.

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