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Communtity Law Manual | Disability rights | Physical access to buildings

Access to shops, transport and other services

Physical access to buildings

Do buildings have to be accessible for disabled people?

Building Act 2004, s 118

No. Buildings do not all have to be accessible for disabled people. New Zealand’s current building code falls a long way short of the level of accessibility being pushed for by the disabled community.

There are accessibility requirements for new buildings. When a new building is being built or an existing building is being altered, reasonable and adequate access must be included for people with disabilities who are likely to visit or work in the building. This means accessible lifts, car parking and toilets, and also things like lighting, signs and the type of floor. The standard that must be met here is “reasonable and adequate”, and so it doesn’t necessarily require that everyone has access.

In 2017, a collective of 12 disability organisations came together under the umbrella of the Access Alliance. The Alliance called for a cross-party commitment to passing an Accessibility Act that would establish legally enforceable minimum standards of accessibility across many areas of everyday life. The Alliance are working with local and international experts to establish what this law may look like in practice. New Zealand legislation is likely to be modelled on legislation from Canada, including the Ontario Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act from 2005, and new draft federal legislation, the Accessible Canada Act. The principles of the proposed Accessibility for New Zealanders Act are available here:

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