What does it mean to be Wheelchair Accessible?

Writing these blog articles I’ve contacted numerous businesses to question whether they were wheelchair accessible. At first a lot of them said yes, but then upon further questioning it seemed that in fact they weren’t truly wheelchair accessible.

In fact, some have asked me what it meant to be wheelchair accessible and one restaurant in Fitzroy who said they had a wheelchair accessible bathroom… sent me these photos↓ ↓ ↓ 

wheelchair accessible meaning
wheelchair accessible meaning

I was shocked but then it got me thinking do enough businesses know what it means to be wheelchair accessible? Do enough businesses care? Are the policies and plans in place to make Australia more accessible?

As a reader of this article I’m assuming that you do care and in fact you are committed to making your venue wheelchair accessible. Otherwise, why else would you be here?! Right…

So upon further investigation I found that according to the Australian Human Rights Commission it is in fact illegal for public places to be inaccessible to people with a disability. This includes existing places as well as places under construction. See here for more information.

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) is the law in Australia that gives valuable insights into the rights of access to places used in public for people with a disability.

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) is supplemented by a series of Disability Standards and Guidelines. These provide more detail on rights and responsibilities about equal access and opportunity for people with a disability.

How wide does a door need to be?

For example, for a single-leaf door it is required for it to be a minimum width of 850mm when the door is open. When double doors are used, the 850mm minimum opening clearance applies to the active leaf. The minimum width is measured at the narrowest point i.e. from the inside face of the open door to the nearest point of the door jamb. The wheelchair user must be able to travel through the opening unobstructed, which means that door handles must not protrude into their path and the angle of the door must open at least 90 degrees.

An 870mm door leaf is usually unable to achieve this width as the thickness of the door when open impinges on the clearance width. 

wheelchair accessible meaning

How wide does a ramp need to be?

The minimum clear width of 1000mm between handrails for a straight ramp. If the ramp includes a change of direction, the width at the turning point must increase depending on the angle of the turn. This is to accommodate the turning arc of a wheelchair. A completely curved ramp requires a minimum clear width of 1500mm.

The AS 1428.1 standards are a minimum for accessibility. Other standards and guidelines (e.g. AS 1428.2, Specialist Disability Accommodation Design Standards, Livable Housing Design Guidelines) suggest a minimum width of 1200mm would enhance access and accommodate a broader range of needs.

wheelchair accessible meaning

How wide does an accessible toilet need to be?

The DDA says the typical room size for an accessible toilet is at least 1900 x 2700mm or 2330 x 2300mm, although this will vary based on the room shape, specific layout, and inclusion of additional fixtures such as a baby change table. Depending on the layout, a slightly larger room is usually required to include an accessible shower.

An accessible toilet differs from an accessible adult change facility (BCA Clause F2.9) in that the latter contains more specialise equipment for carer-assisted toileting, showering, and changing. One cannot replace the other.

wheelchair accessible meaning

Want more information?

Accessed provides some great resources and information regarding these specific guidelines and standards.




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