Over 9,000 people have now signed the petition to change the National Building Code to make housing accessible for all Australians.
The Australian Building Code Board (ABCB) is considering the inclusion of minimum accessibility standards for housing in the 2022 National Construction Code (NCC). Currently, the building industry operates under a voluntary code of practice to include accessible features in new homes. This voluntary practice is failing to meet the needs of all Australians.
Occupational therapists understand the importance of accessible housing in supporting participation in everyday living, whether that be access to a toilet, minimising the risk of falls, reducing reliance on caregivers or the opportunity to visit the homes of friends and family. This article by Ben Gauntlett provides a first-hand account of the importance of accessible housing.
Minimum access requirements will benefit all Australians. A recent report suggests that 73% of people with a mobility restriction currently live in housing that does not meet their accessibility needs. In addition, we know that institutional housing that segregates people with disability and the frail elderly is not working, with a preferred alternative of enabling our ageing population to remain in their own homes for as long as possible.
In March 2021, Building Ministers from across Australia will meet to consider whether to include mandatory minimum accessibility standards in the National Construction Code (NCC). We are calling on occupational therapists to join the campaign for change to this code and to make housing accessible for all Australians.
Accessible housing is a core concern of occupational therapists. Right now, the skills and expertise of occupational therapists are needed to advocate for this once in a generation opportunity to improve the design of new houses for all Australians and to future-proof housing infrastructure for our ageing population.
There are three main ways you can help us change the building code to make all new housing accessible:
→ Complete and/or share this survey of occupational therapists who conduct home visits
→ Share this survey of people with mobility limitations
→ Support the Building Better Homes campaign
The surveys are being conducted by the Summer Foundation and La Trobe University. The aim of the surveys is to create an evidence-base for accessible design that will be critical in negotiating changes to the National Construction Code (NCC). The surveys will be open until 17 March, 2021. Participation is entirely voluntary and responses will be anonymous.
By Dr Kate D’Cruz
Occupational Therapist and Senior Research Fellow Summer Foundation, Adjunct La Trobe University
About the Building Better Homes Campaign
The Building Better Homes Campaign is a coalition of more than 40 coalition partners from the disability, aged care and health sectors, including Occupational Therapy Australia. The Campaign is advocating for mandatory inclusion of minimum accessible features in the National Construction Code (NCC). Australian ambassadors include Kurt Fernley, Jackie French, Tim Ferguson, Simon McKeon and Graeme Innes. You can watch their videos here. More than 8,000 people have signed a petition. You can sign the petition here.