People With Disabilities ACT acknowledges the Ngunnawal People as the traditional owners of the land on which we work.
Copyright June 2015 People With Disabilities ACT Inc
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About PWD ACT
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 advocates from a human rights perspective and acknowledges the UN Convention on the Rights of People With Disabilities.
The text of this Convention can be found at: www.hreoc.gov.au/disability_rights/convention.htm
Articles 9, 19 and 20 of this Convention are especially relevant to this submission.
PWD ACT has informed its individual and organisational members of this consultation in its May and June Newsletters and informed members of its intention to make a submission on this matter.
PWD ACT has focussed on the objective ’to provide people with disabilities with equitable, dignified, cost effective and reasonably achievable access to public buildings and the facilities and services within those buildings. PWD ACT asserts that the Standard has not achieved this objective. This is due to a number of factors which include:-
- A lack of awareness of the standards by people with disabilities;
- A lack of resources of people with disabilities and the organisations representing them and advocating for them to promote the Standards, train people in their use and undertake enforcement action;
- Poor implementation of the Standards by builders and building owners and occupiers – some of which is due to a lack of awareness; and
- Practical difficulties for people with disabilities in using the complaints process under the Disability Discrimination Act to enforce compliance with the Standards.
Recommendations of Access All Areas Enquiry Report
In relation to Accommodation buildings PWD ACT asserts that the bedroom/dwelling thresholds for specified class 1(b) buildings and class 3 buildings are not appropriate. These thresholds should be increased. We are aware that people with disabilities experience difficulty in finding accessible accommodation in Canberra which is both truly accessible and importantly affordable. PWD ACT also reasonable believes that the numbers of accessible accommodation rooms in Canberra would be insufficient to hold a major disability event such as a sporting carnival or National conference. This is not acceptable given Canberra’s role as the National Capital.
Accessible Sanitary Facilities
The issues that have come to our attention relating to accessible sanitary facilities relate to the poor implementation of the requirements of the Standards by builders, building owners and building occupiers and managers. Poor implementation of the requirements of the Standards means that sanitary facilities which should be accessible are either inaccessible or not as accessible as they should be. Complaints relate to:
- Doors which are heavy, have difficult opening or closing mechanisms or which open the wrong way;
- The layout and design of the room;
- The positioning of facilities within the room; and
- The amount of circulation space
80th and 90th Percentile Wheelchair Dimensions
PWD ACT has had comment from people whose wheelchairs are in the 90% range that the dimensions of building features in the Premises Standard are inadequate. They still have difficulty manoeuvring in buildings which are supposed to be accessible for them. PWD ACT is aware that more people need to use larger wheelchairs and would argue that the dimensions for building features specified in the Standard should recognise this reality.
PWD ACT has observed no impact of the Premises Standards on the availability of accessible car parking for people with disabilities in May 2011. The lack of accessible carparking spaces and the difficulty in finding accessible carparking spaces remains one of the most constant complaints which come to our organisation.
In Canberra, there has been a major problem caused by the amendments to the physical layout o disability accessible carparking spaces made in the May 2011 Standards. Throughout 2011, when Standard compliant spaces were implemented in Canberra, PWD ACT received a constant stream of complaints from people with disabilities.
AS/NZS2890.6, which is the referenced Standard for car parking spaces referred to in the Premises Standard, has changed the dimensions and layout of disability parking spaces to reduce the width of spaces from 3.2 metres to 2.4 metres and to add a shared zone of 1.2 metres on one side of the parking space. It is the intention that this shared zone allows people with wheelchairs or mobility aids to use the shared zone to get themselves and their wheelchair or mobility aid out of their vehicle. However, as the shared zone is only on one side of the parking space, it often becomes necessary to reverse into the parking space to use it. This is difficult for many drivers especially those who have limited movement. The 2.4 metre wide parking area is too narrow compared to the former 3.2 metre wide space. Drivers who have limited mobility in their hands, arms and neck find it difficult to manoeuvre into the 2.4 metre wide space, whereas with the 3.2 metre wide space they could park anywhere within that space.
Some people pointed to the problem that if both front seat passenger and driver are wheelchair users and the area adjoining the disability space is a standard width space and the vehicle in that space is parked close to the dividing line, there will be insufficient room to open the passenger or driver door to its full width as is needed by many users.
The shared space is marked with lines indicating that it is a no parking area. However, many people either do not know the purpose of the shared space or ignore the parking restrictions. The outcome is that the people with disabilities, for whom the parking space and shared zone are meant, cannot access the parking spaces. In many instances, the only practical way to use the parking space is to park the vehicle partially in the shared area and this exposes the driver to the risk of a parking fine.
Initially, bollards were placed on the yellow lines to prevent vehicles parking there. However, these bollards have proved to be a safety hazard and they are no longer used. We note that New Zealand chose not to use bollards in these shared loading areas.
Users of these parking spaces would like to see a narrower shared area provided adjacent to each space “like they have in Queensland”. Some believe that 1.2 to 1.5 metres would be adequate to enable a wheelchair or mobility aid to use the space.
In November 2011 PWD ACT held a public meeting on this matter. No one at this meeting was in favour of the layout new parking spaces. In 2012, there was media publicity in the Canberra Times about these carparking spaces and Roads ACT announced a moratorium on their use. Also, in 2012, The ACT Disability and Community Services Commissioner dealt with a discrimination complaint relating to the new parking spaces.
Both PWD ACT and Roads ACT wrote to Standards Australia to seek a review of this aspect of the Standard. Our request for this review was rejected and we were told that the 2015 Review of the Standard was the appropriate time to raise this request. We are therefore disappointed that the issue of the layout and design of carparking spaces has not been included in this Review.
PWD ACT seeks a Review of the May 2010 amendments to the Standards and of the changes made to disability parking spaces by AS/NZS2890.6 and that such a review address the problems with these parking spaces identified by people with disabilities in Canberra and outlined above. We include the representations to Standards Australia by PWD ACT and by Roads ACT and the response by Standards Australia as attachments to our submission. We seek discussions with the Review on this aspect of our submission.
Public Transport Buildings
PWD ACT members are finding that They are encountering the access issues mentioned in this submission in both public transport buildings and buildings subject to the Premises Standard.
The Wayfinding provisions in the Premises Standard do not provide adequate accessibility to building and building services for people with sensory disabilities. There are few wayfinding clues beyond signage and some TGSIs in buildings that are of practical wayfinding assistance to people with visual and hearing disabilities.
Since the 2010 Review there has been substantial research into
Small Building Exemption
PWD ACT understands the rationale for this exemption. However, we suggest that the Review should consider the potential to narrow the application of this exemption especially where it operates to deny people with disabilities access to important services. In particular this exemption could operate to disproportionately disadvantage people with disabilities in smaller towns in which important services are likely to be provided in smaller buildings.
The experience of PWD ACT is that people with disabilities who wish to engage in advocacy on access issues often lack the resources and expert knowledge to assess whether other people and authorities are applying this exception appropriately or responding adequate to questions of unjustifiable hardship. The Guidance materials available are only partly helpful. People with disabilities need training to understand this exception and advocacy support to deal with it when it is raised in a dispute over the adequacy of access and the application of the Premises Standard.
Inconsistencies in the Interpretation and Application of the Premises Standards
The prevalence of access problems in the community is the evidence for us of substantial inconsistent or incorrect interpretation and application of the deemed to satisfy provisions in the Premises Standards. The Premises Standards are not easy to understand or use if you are a person with a disability. This is so because the Standards are both legal documents and technical building and construction documents. Even with training, many people with disabilities will be unable to interpret or apply the Standards to their situations.
PWD ACT believes that this situation is one in which advocacy support should be provided for people with disabilities who are seeking to understand, interpret and apply the Standard to their access needs and particular access situations.