On November 13, the U.S. Access Board held a day-long workshop comparing how building accessibility is addressed in Australia and the U.S. It featured presentations and a dialogue by experts on how accessibility to the built environment is addressed and enforced in both nations.
Representatives from Australia included Michael Small, a former government official in Australia and the recipient of a Churchill Fellowship to study building accessibility from an international perspective, and Robin Banks, a consultant in human rights who formerly headed the Australian Public Interest Advocacy Centre and served as a state Anti-Discrimination Commissioner. They reviewed Australia’s development of accessibility standards under the Disability Discrimination Act of 1992 which were also incorporated into the country’s National Construction Code to facilitate compliance.
“Participants in the workshop on Australian and US accessibility requirements”
U.S. experts described how accessibility to facilities is addressed under civil rights laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and by building codes and regulations. Speakers included Rebecca B. Bond, Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights; Ronald Clements Jr., CBO, assistant building official for Chesterfield County, Virginia; Ann Cody a senior foreign affairs officer who leads the State Department’s International Disability Rights team; David Collins, FAIA, NCARB, who represented the American Institute of Architects; Allan Frasier, CBI, CPCA of the National Fire Protection Association; David Insinga, Chief Architect of the General Services Administration; Dominic Marinelli, Vice President of the United Spinal Association, Kimberly Paarlberg, RA, Senior Staff Architect in Technical Services at the International Code Council; Kenneth Shiotani of the National Disability Rights Network; and James Terry, AIA who is CEO of Evan Terry Associates, LLC and President, Corada, LLC.
Participants discussed and compared how building regulations and standards are developed, amended, and enforced in each county, the relationship between civil rights laws and building regulations, and the roles of building officials, designers, and builders. Specific questions included how compliance is assessed and monitored, variance or waiver mechanisms, use of performance standards and alternative design solutions, involving people with disabilities in the development of standards, and available resources and training for building professionals. Members of the public were able to attend in person and remotely and raised questions or comments with the panel.