This page belongs to: Premises Standards Review 2021

Review at a glance

The Disability (Access to Premises - Building) Standards 2010 (the Premises Standards) help people with disability have dignified access to buildings. Improved access to buildings can also benefit older people, people with injuries or illness, and parents and carers with young children.

The Premises Standards also help building developers, certifiers and managers ensure that buildings comply with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

The Premises Standards are reviewed at least once every 5 years. Senator the Hon Jonathon Duniam, Assistant Minister for Industry Development, is responsible for reviewing the Premises Standards in consultation with Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, Attorney-General. The Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources supports the Minister in conducting the review.

The purpose of the review is to:

  • ensure the Premises Standards are achieving their objectives
  • help building industry stakeholders fulfil their responsibilities to people with disability
  • identify ways to improve the Premises Standards.

This report discusses:

  • the context in which the 2021 review was undertaken
  • the methodology we used
  • themes identified through stakeholder engagement
  • the review’s findings and recommendations.

It also examines practices in other countries to see if any lessons learnt overseas can be applied in Australia.

The review had 3 phases: discovery, consultation and engagement. We engaged a total of 579 participants, including:

  • stakeholders across the disability sector
  • building professionals
  • employers
  • people in all levels of government.

Participants shared their views through:

  • written submissions
  • a webinar
  • workshops
  • discussion boards
  • interviews
  • focus groups.

What we heard

People living with disability told us they find it easier to access premises that were built after the Premises Standards were introduced. This indicates that the Premises Standards are achieving their objectives.

However, people living with disability also identified emerging issues and areas for improvement. These included:

  • inconsistent requirements for signage and luminance contrast
  • a lack of information on emerging wayfinding solutions
  • a lack of accessible carparks and automatic doors
  • a need to increase the size of openings and thoroughfares for easier access. 

These issues need to be addressed to ensure the Premises Standards continue achieving their objectives.

Building professionals told us they needed better guidance to help them comply with the Premises Standards. They were particularly concerned about how to apply the Premises Standards to significant works on older and heritage-listed buildings.

Building professionals were also concerned about the inconsistencies among disability standards, state and territory requirements and the National Construction Code (NCC).

Many businesses emphasised a need for practical guidance, such as check lists, to help them improve access for employees when negotiating commercial leases.

Unfortunately this review could not address every issue raised by stakeholders. We will continue engaging with stakeholders to address other issues.

Opportunities for action

We have grouped stakeholder feedback into 3 areas:

  • regulatory reform
  • information sharing
  • governance.

The opportunities for action align with these areas. If agreed by the government, these actions will ensure the Premises Standards continue meeting their objectives.

Regulatory reform

People living with disability frequently raised 3 issues that had a large impact on their daily lives:

  • insufficient accessible car parking
  • the placement of automatic doors, as well as their lack of use in accessible toilet facilities
  • openings and thoroughfares that are too narrow.

These issues are addressed by Action 1.

Action 1: Investigate the costs and benefits, and whether there is a case for reform, in the key areas impacting the lives of people living with disability

The Australian Government, in consultation with the Australian Building Codes Office and the states and territories, undertake regulatory impact analysis on:

  • whether accessible car-parking ratios are adequate
  • where automatic doors are used, including their use in accessible toilet facilities.
  • the adequacy of dimensions of openings and thoroughfares in the Premises Standards and the opportunity to align with the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (Transport Standards).

This work will provide evidence for any future changes to the Premises Standards and the National Construction Code (NCC).

Information sharing

Over a quarter of submissions identified the need for new or updated guidance to help stakeholders understand their rights and responsibilities under the Premises Standards.

The guidance most in need of updating is the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Guideline on the application of the Premises Standards. This is addressed by Action 2a.  

Stakeholders also raised the need for guidance on signage requirements, luminance contrasting and wayfinding solutions, which they felt were often overlooked. There is still no consensus amongst majority of the stakeholders on many of these issues, and developing guidance is the first step towards considering these issues in the Premises Standards.

Stakeholders told us they also wanted:

  • guidance on lodging and resolving complaints
  • guidance on dealing with heritage-listed buildings
  • advice for employers and procurement specialists
  • closer alignment between the Premises Standards and Transport Standards.

These are all addressed by Action 2b.

To properly assess whether the Premises Standards are achieving their objectives, we need data to help us measure buildings’ compliance with the standards. This is addressed by Action 3.

Action 2a: Update the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) Guideline on the application of the Premises Standards to ensure people understand their rights and responsibilities under the Premises Standards

The AHRC’s Guideline on the application of the Premises Standards is the guidance used most by the building profession and people living with disability.

The opportunity exists for the AHRC, in conjunction with the Australian Government, to review and update the guideline to ensure it is:

  • up to date
  • relevant to stakeholders who want to understand their rights and responsibilities.

This will lead to improved access to premises.

Action 2b: Develop guidance to address new and emerging issues identified by stakeholders during the review, which impact their access to buildings or ability to comply with the Premises Standards

There is an opportunity for the Australian Government, in consultation with people with disability, the AHRC and other relevant stakeholders, to identify, prioritise and develop guidance. This may include:

  • guidance on standardisation of signage requirements, luminance contrasting and emerging wayfinding solutions, which may form the basis of nationally consistent standards in future
  • information to improve awareness of people's rights and responsibilities under the Premises Standards, including compliance with the standards and how to lodge and resolve complaints
  • the best approach for handling issues related to heritage-listed and older buildings that may not be in the scope of the Premises Standards
  • best-practice advice and checklists for procurement specialists and employers to improve their awareness of, and compliance with, the Premises Standards
  • guidance on the intersecting issues between the Premises Standards and Transport Standards.

Action 3: Create a baseline assessment of premises to ensure that the effectiveness of the Premises Standards can be measured in the future

The Premises Standards review process currently relies on people’s views of the standards’ effectiveness.

The opportunity exists for the Australian Government, along with the states and territories, to explore the best way to assess a representative sample of new buildings or building works.

This assessment would:

  • test the types of data available
  • identify data that could be collected to determine compliance with the Premises Standards.

This data would provide evidence for future reviews of the Premises Standards.

Governance

This review identified opportunities to amend the Premises Standards to improve their effectiveness. This is addressed by Action 4a.

Disability standards including the Premises Standards, the NCC and other Australian standards are updated at different times. This leads to inconsistency across the standards, which causes confusion for stakeholders. The inconsistency is addressed by Action 4b.

Actions 4a and 4b will work together to ensure the NCC and Premises Standards are aligned.

Stakeholders also raised concerns about the amount of time they spend consulting on multiple disability standards reviews at once. These reviews, as well as other Australian Government policy work such as Australia's Disability Strategy, need to be better coordinated. We will monitor the opportunity for greater coordination amongst policy stakeholders as Australia's Disability Strategy is implemented.

Action 4a: Identify amendments to the Premises Standards to ensure consistency with Australian Standards

The Australian Government amend the Premises Standards to reflect all recent updates to referenced Australian Standards.

Action 4b: Implement a process to more quickly align disability standards and the National Construction Code

The Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, in consultation with the Australian Building Codes Office and Standards Australia, implement a process to ensure that the National Construction Code (NCC) and Premises Standards can adopt new or amended standards outside the 3-yearly NCC amendment cycle.