In my experience working in the building industry, I have noticed an access barrier in the attitude of a developer who builds multi-story buildings and locates all the building’s accessible toilets in the one place – the ground floor. Although NZS 4121 advices that accessible toilets should be included where general toilets are located, this developer argues that he is providing more accessible toilets than are required by the Building Code and has persuaded Council that this is a desirable outcome.
Clearly this is not to the advantage of people who need to use accessible toilets, for a range of reasons:
- Anyone can find themselves needing to go to the toilet urgently – what an additional stress to get the lift to the ground floor
- People with stomas of different kinds need a toilet and basin located together, they cannot deal with such equipment at the generic hand washing basins
- If there is a power failure and the lifts stop working, how do you reach an accessible toilet?
- Extra time is needed while waiting for the lift to and from the ground floor toilet, which is also detrimental in additional costs to the employer. There is no dignity in not being treated the same as everyone else.
From a commercial perspective, the non-provision of accessible facilities on upper floors requires tenant businesses to install their own accessible toilets alongside the suite of toilets provided in the base build. It angers me that this additional expense falls on the tenant. Of course the tenant leaves that accessible toilet infrastructure in place when they terminate the lease – thereby increasing the value of the tenancy when it is leased out again - to the benefit of the building developer and owner. I am dealing with such a situation right now: one client is moving into newly renovated premises, where accessible toilets are provided on all floors, whilst another is moving into a building currently being built by the above developer.
I want the new accessibility legislation to enforce both the spirit and the letter of our access regulations and building codes.
This is a story about the barriers many face. We're sharing it because we want a law that puts accessibility at the heart of an inclusive Aotearoa New Zealand.