Facilities for Disabled People - Building Regulations South Africa
May 042012

The Importance of Facilities

for Disabled People in our Buildings

Red yellow disabled parking s Facilities for Disabled PeopleThe National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act was amended and published by the Department of Trade and Industry in May 2008. Some parts of the Act were affected more than others; some changed very little. Part S, which deals with facilities for disabled people (or persons) is one section that had changed radically.

Ron Watermeyer Facilities for Disabled People

Dr Ron Watermeyer

In fact, according to Ron Watermeyer, a civil engineer, chairperson of Standards South Africa’s Technical Committee for Construction Standards and a member of the secretariat of the Inter-ministerial Task Team for Construction Industry Development (amongst other things), it is one of 12 parts that has been “fundamentally rewritten”. The reason, of course lies in the motivation for changing the National Building Regulations in the first place. Dr Watermeyer was tasked with rewriting the SABS document, now referred to as SANS 10400 (rather than the original SABS 0400), which contains “deemed-to-satisfy” rules. And according to him, the motivation was based on several factors. By 2008, when the Act was last amended, there had been numerous changes to South African society, and these directly affected the building industry. More specifically, he said:

  • the apartheid system was no longer applicable,
  • local authorities throughout the country had been completely restructured,
  • the National Home Builders Registration Council had been formed,
  • South Africa’s population had more than doubled,
  • building control and systems had become increasingly complex,
  • new and innovative construction systems had been introduced.

If you’ve ever read Section 24 of the Bill of Rights in the South African Constitution, you will know that: “everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being.” Since the buildings in which we live are an integral part of our environment, the implication is that constitutionally they MUST be safe. So the primary motivation regarding changes to the Act was to make them safer than ever before. And of course this meant that it was imperative that anything relating to disabled persons, and their facilities, had to be upgraded.

What the Act Says in Terms of Facilities to be Provided for Disabled People

The essential requirements of the National Building Regulations (in terms of facilities for disabled people or persons) are that:

1. People with disabilities should be able to safely enter the building and be able to safely use all the facilities within it – specifically toilets.

2. There must be a means of access that is suitable for people with disabilities to use. In addition, access must be available from various approaches of the building via the main entrance and any secondary entrances, and should lead to the ground floor.

3. There must be a means of egress (a point of departure) that is suitable for people with disabilities to use in the event of any sort of emergency. This relates to any sort of emergency, but in addition, a further clause states that departure routes (or egress) must also be designed in accordance with Part T of the regulations, namely the section that relates to Fire Protection.

4. Lifts in buildings must be able to serve the needs of disabled people. This includes ensuring that any commonly used “path of travel” MUST be free of any sort of obstacles that would limit, restrict or endanger people with disabilities who use that route. There must also be absolutely no obstacles that will prevent people with disabilities from accessing facilities within the building. The regulations refer specifically to people with impaired vision, but clearly they also relate to people in wheelchairs, or people who have trouble walking freely.

5. Buildings that incorporate halls or auditoriums for public use are obliged to ensure that a reasonable percentage of space is available for people in wheelchairs or other “assistive devices”.

In addition to these clauses, the National Building Regulations also state that where there is parking available for more than 50 motor vehicles, there must  be parking facilities that accommodate disabled persons. There is also an obligation to ensure that persons with disabilities are provided with a suitable means of access from the parking area to the ground floor – or storey – of the building.

Of course this also means that the “deemed-to-satisfy” rules have changed.

According to this section of SANS 10400, The application of the National Building Regulations Part S: Facilities for persons with disabilities, ”Establishes requirements for external and internal circulation routes, including doors and doorways, ramps, stairways, handrails, lifts, toilet facilities, auditoriums and halls, obstructions in the path of travel, parking and indication of facilities.”

Get your copy from the SABS online store or directly from them in Pretoria (head office), Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth or East London. The ISBN number is 978-0-626-25219-9, and it sells for R134 plus VAT.

  49 Responses to “Facilities for Disabled People”

Comments (49)
  1. Thanks for the article. I am a student of facility management in Malawi. Though this is for South Africa, it has indeed helped me understand as an upcoming facility planner and manager, to understand the legislation for the disabled people.

  2. l refer to Benoni Lakeside Mall. Altough they have parking, no one has access to the as one has to register with some private person in order to get a permit to park there. All spaces stand empty and we the disabled can not park there.

  3. i have a question what are the laws for paraplegic parking? can anyone with a sore foot park in this bay?
    especially at a hospital.. and persons with a baby cos the door is to far??? i get this all the time at a hospital in pretoria can you mail me the law so i can go and show it to them..

    • Wilma this is sometimes covered by local bylaws and sometimes just by management policy. It’s a huge problem and one that many shopping centres ignore because it is so difficult to enforce. All you can do is go and talk to management and ask them to police the parking so that the people it is intended for can use it. I think the most common policy is for discs to be issued, so that parking attendants can see whether people can legitimately park there. But even so this has problems since it doesn’t specify the driver of that particular car.

  4. Subject:
    Bathroom regulations

    Hi I have an elderly mother who is having trouble getting out of the
    bath. Can a pully mechanism be built for her. They stay in a flat with
    concrete roof. Can i have a pully system, with a winch
    (landrover)installed for her. What are the regulations pertaining to
    this. Regards Ingrid

    • Ingrid there is nothing in the Building Regulations that relate to pulleys. Whatever you provide for her needs to be safe, so have it installed by a professional.

  5. What should the size of a disability parking bay be?

    • Rosemary, parking bays are not specified in the NBR. This would normally be covered by local bylaws and might vary according to where they are located.

  6. Subject:
    existing buildings
    Do existing buildings need to be retrofitted to comply with the SANS10400-s (people with disabilities) – I know that when some of the regulations change (eg fire regs) an existing building may have to be modified to bring it into compliance.
    Thanks for the great site!

    • Anne retrofitting is not required unless there is a major renovation or extension to the building.

      • I am concerned that existing buildings do not have to make provisions for disabled! With the exception of historical monuments, how can government buildings, retail stores and residential apartment blocks be allowed to exclude people with disabilities?

        • Joyce it is not so much that they don’t have to make provision for disabled people, it is rather that they do not have to be retrofitted to comply with the new regulations. If you download the old regulations – SABS 0400-1990 (this is a link for you) – you will see what the regulations previously required. If you find any buildings including government buildings, retail stores and residential apartment blocks that do not comply with these then they are in contravention of the law.

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