Submission: Regulations to amend the ACT Building Code Access Re garage access and height of garage door handles


Date: 17 October 2016

People With Disabilities ACT acknowledges the Ngunnawal People as the traditional owners of the land on which we work.

Copyright October 2016 People With Disabilities ACT Inc

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People With Disabilities ACT Inc. (PWD ACT Inc.) is a not for profit consumer run systemic advocacy organisation which represents the interests of people with disabilities in the ACT.   PWD ACT Inc. works to improve access to all amenities and to all forms of information and activities of the community. PWD ACT Inc. is a peak body which seeks to inform the community about disability issues.

PWD ACT has informed its individual and organisational members of this consultation and informed members of its intention to make a submission on this matter.

PWD ACT offers the following comments on the proposal to amend the ACT Annex to the Building Code to apply to newly constructed houses to help prevent young children entering unsupervised garages, parking spaces and driveways through an internal doorway. The amendment would require child safety barriers or other mechanisms, such as door handles at least 1.5 metres above the floor, to be installed and would be made mandatory through ACT building laws.

PWD ACT acknowledges the pre-eminent need to address child safety around garages. The safety issues which apply to young children are similar to the issues faced by people with disabilities who are also vulnerable from reversing cars, especially electric cars which are silent on take-off and SUV’s and larger models, in spaces including public carparks.

The raising of the height of the door handles will limit the accessibility and visibility of houses especially for people with disabilities who are in wheelchairs who will be unable to reach the handle from a seated position in a wheelchair. In the worst case, a person in a wheelchair will be unable to reach the handle to get in or out of the house.

PWD ACT also points out that self-latching doors create a real risk for people with disability to have a fall or be trapped in their garages if there is no egress to the house. The opening doors towards the house seem to be the least worst option but the proposal to make the handle heights all 1.5 metres off the floor is problematic for people with disabilities.

The regulations appear to make provision for exemptions from the minimum handle height requirements where this is necessary for disability access. However in view of the detrimental effect of this regulation on the accessibility and visibility of housing and the potential for people with disabilities to be injured by falling or to be trapped in their house, we cannot support this regulation. We seek an urgent meeting with the responsible officers to clarify the operation of the proposed amendments to the Building Code and to explore the possibilities for changes to the proposals to better balance the competing needs of child safety and disability access.

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