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STANDING COMMITTEE ON LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS
03/04/2009
Disability (Access to Premises - Buildings) Standards [draft]

ACTING CHAIRMAN —Welcome. Is there anything you would like to add to the capacity in which you appear today?

Mr Wakefield —My company specialises in providing lifts around Australia for people with disabilities.

ACTING CHAIRMAN —Do you provide lifts in other buildings as well?

Mr Wakefield —No, we do not.

ACTING CHAIRMAN —You are a specialist company.

Mr Wakefield —Yes.

ACTING CHAIRMAN —Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, you should understand that these hearings are formal proceedings of the Commonwealth parliament and giving false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may regard it as a contempt of parliament. Now it is over to you.

Mr Wakefield —I understand that. I appreciate that it is very likely that what I am going to talk about is probably of far less significance than fire access and egress from multi-storey buildings.

ACTING CHAIRMAN —Just focus on what you want to tell us.

Mr Wakefield —Okay. There are a couple of anomalies in this disability access code that apply to part 14 lifts. Part 14 lifts seem to be treated as insignificant because they only travel to one metre. What has been grossly misunderstood is the number of these that are in demand and the number of buildings that require a lift that will travel just a metre to access small mezzanine areas or entrances to buildings. There are many buildings that should have one, but do not. Here in the consultation draft, under E3.6(b) ‘Application of features to passenger lifts’, it says:

Handrail complying with the provisions for a mandatory handrail in AS 1735.12—

applies in all lifts except—

(a) a stairway platform lift—

which runs upstairs—

complying with AS 1735.7; and

(b) a low-rise platform lift complying with AS 1735.14.

It travels vertically; it only travels one metre, but they are saying here there is no requirement for a mandatory and compliant handrail. Of all of the access consultants and architects that we have spoken to since we started to read this through, we have not found one of them who can understand why that is being left off the part 14 lift. One consultant says it is as if they treat it as of no consequence at all. But there are more of these little lifts out there and in demand than what there are for the part 16, even though in this publication it says that the most significant small low-rise platform lift is a part 16. That is not quite true; there are more part 12s in demand and being used.

Another thing it says is:

Lift car and landing control buttons complying with AS 1735.12—

in all lifts except—

(a) a stairway platform lift … and

(b) a low-rise platform lift complying with AS 1735.14

Having car and landing control buttons in this reference refers to having a controlled station on each side of the car and that the buttons also have braille and are tactile, which we have all seen in full-level lifts. However, once again, why would we not have the same convenience for our disabled people in a low-rise lift? Just because it only goes one metre is no reason why it should be excluded.

If anybody is talking about it, it is going to be a big cost. Frequently when we have submitted what we consider and what access consultants have considered to be a BCA compliant lift, the developer has said, ‘Look, all I want is the cheapest lift that I can get. It does not have to be BCA compliant.’ Access consultants are saying, ‘It should have these things. Now, here’s the cost.’ To get a compliant hand-rail would cost, at maximum, $100. How anybody could say that is an excessive cost, I do not know. A second control station would cost, including fitting, approximately $340 extra. To get braille and tactile buttons would cost an extra $220. So the cost is minimal.

If this goes through, it is saying, ‘You don’t have to have braille and tactile buttons.’ It also means that if someone has no ability in their right hand and the buttons are on the right-hand side, they mostly cannot reach them. The idea of having the two is that if a person has a disability on one side they can at least get to the buttons on the other side. As I said, the cost is minimal.

ACTING CHAIRMAN —Thank you. We are almost out of time but I would like to ask one question and then invite my colleagues to ask a question. Can you give us the options for dignified swimming pool lifts—the cost and suitability for commercial application—and do you have any comments to make on sling lifts?

Mr Wakefield —Thank you very much for asking about that. In the United States and in fact in most parts of the world—I think this recommendation is talking about a wheelchair lift and a platform lift only. That is certainly essential for those in wheelchairs who cannot move out of a wheelchair. But there are many people who use swimming pools who do have upper body mobility and they can transfer from a wheelchair to a seat. There is a lot less money involved in installing one of these seated swimming pool lifts than what it costs for the larger ones—the full platform.

ACTING CHAIRMAN —Do you have any costings?

Mr Wakefield —Yes. The large platform lifts start at about $13,000 whereas the seated pool lifts—and there are many installed in Australia already in hotels and public pools—are a little over $6,000.

ACTING CHAIRMAN —Thank you.

Mr PERRETT —Is there a gear mechanism on the side of the pool and they lower themselves into the pool?

Mr Wakefield —It is automatic. Yes, the ones I am referring to can be geared or just water powered—no motors, no electricity at all.

ACTING CHAIRMAN —That is efficient. Thank you very much for popping in and filling in a gap in the program for us. The secretary will send you a copy of the transcript of your evidence; it is your responsibility to make any necessary corrections. If you want to give us any more information about the matters you have been talking about, please contact the secretariat as the committee would be very happy to receive it.

Mr Wakefield —Thank you very much.

[12.29 pm]