Movement is growing in Australia for building better homes equipped to provide equal access to everyone, especially those with disabilities. Big names are coming together and lending support behind this important cause. Former Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Graeme Innes, and Social Advocate, Kathryn Greiner (Building Better Homes), have met with building ministers for an approval to their proposal.
This means the accessibility standards will be deemed mandatory in the 2022 National Building Code. Depending on individual State nomination, new houses will now have accessibility features that most elderly and people with disabilities need in order to live and navigate easily in their own homes. With a future-proofed home like this, Australians will be able to stay in their houses for longer without having to move to care homes. Furthermore, what will a future-proofed home look like? Here are some features that will be raised to meet the disability standards.
Main Doorway Threshold with No-Step Level Surface
It may be a small step for most people, however, a higher doorway threshold can be a dangerous snag that can result in a slip or fall for people with mobility issues and can be a point of friction for wheelchair users. Most homes should have a level surface. If raising the home’s floor surface level cannot be avoided, instead of a step, a better alternative is a mini-ramp to ease into the home.
Interior Entrances: Bathrooms, Kitchens, Bedrooms
Next to the main doorway, the entrances to key areas of the house should also follow and abide by liveable housing design guidelines. Key areas of the house include bathroom, kitchen and bedroom/s. In order to provide door access, the doorway width must be 850 mm in order to accommodate the passage of a 760mm mobility aid. Meanwhile, if there is a door, handles must be placed 900mm to 1100mm above the floor.
Another cramped area in Australian homes where most residential bathrooms are not built to accommodate those with mobility issues. But with the Building Better Homes proposal, bathrooms can be built to follow the accessibility standard. This will allow wheelchair-bound or those with mobility issues, to easily use the bathroom in their own homes.
For people with a disability, the elderly or the injured, having light switches, wall lighting fixtures, air-conditioning units or even an intercom at the right height, can mean all the difference between living independently or depending on others for simple basic tasks. By following the accessibility standards when building a house, the added cost is still much cheaper than if one retrofitted a home for accessibility. Thinking of the future can also mean a lot of savings for the average Australian with an already future-proofed home.
Going one step further from following liveable housing design guidelines, home builders and developers can also use technology to further meet accessibility standards. From voice-controlled lights and temperature, automatic doors, sensors in the bathroom for the water faucet and toilet flushing, and many more. Such technology can immensely help giving people a better living standard right in their own home.
Apartment Design Guidelines
All residential apartment developments are required to satisfy the requirements of the Apartments Design Guidelines (ADGs). Section 4Q of the ADGs nominates that as a minimum 20% of all dwellings provided are to satisfy the provisions for Silver liveable housing design guidelines (LHA). The silver liveable housing design guidelines nominate the following 7 criteria to be incorporated into the design:
- Dwelling access from boundary and garage
- Dwelling entrance (step free)
- Internal doors (820mm clear) and corridors (min 1m clear)
- WC with a clear 900 x 1200mm zone in front of the WC Pan
- Hobless shower
- Wall reinforcement to bathroom sarees for the future installation for grabrails.
- Provision of a handrail to stairways with a rise of more than 1m
Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA): Existing Policies and Prototypes in Place
There has been great legislation and policies such as the SDA, that give people with disabilities a new lease in life and accommodation. Specially-built apartment complexes all follow the SDA dDesign Guidelines —from sturdy wheelchair hoists, voice recognition technology, and bathrooms that follow and comply with Disability Standards.
One unique feature the complexes have is on-call support workers ready to assist if anyone needs help or support.
But the biggest impact these specially-built apartments has provided is that younger people with disabilities now have an option to live life fully independently. This is as opposed to the other alternatives of either being stuck in an aged care facility where it is more regimented or at a group home where privacy is almost non-existent.
We at iAccess Consultants are extremely excited to see this initiative pass and approved. This decision means that we are giving all Australians the most basic need and fulfilled right from the very beginning— an accessible home that meets everyone’s needs, regardless of the physical state they are in.