It’s been over three years since the ‘Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010‘ (also known as the Premises Standards) came into force. At that time, the ‘Building Code of Australia’ (or the BCA) was amended to be consistent with the access provisions of the Premises Standards. One of the updated Australian Standards adopted at that time was ‘Australian Standard AS1428.1 (2009) – Design for access and mobility, Part 1: General requirements for access – New building work‘.
AS1428.1-2009 introduced many changes, including new circulation space accessibility requirements on accessible paths of travel, ambulant toilets and changes to ramp and stairway requirements. One small change that came in very quietly and continues to be misinterpreted is the requirement for a seat with a 30% luminance contrast.
The intent of this requirement is so that people with low vision can identify the accessible toilet pan within an accessible toilet facility. Though this is only required within the accessible toilet in AS1428.1-2009, it would also be best practice to consider providing contrasting toilet seats in all toilets including the ambulant toilet. So, does an accessible toilet seat need to be blue? (Also commonly referred to as a disabled toilet).
Caroma are showing these on their AS1428.1 compliant toilet suites too. Well – the answer is “No”. It just needs to achieve the 30% luminance contrast, which could be to the pan, walls or floor when viewed I believe from the toilet facility doorway. So all you people that love black seats or white seats you can still use them, as long as they have a good contrast to their background surfaces. On this basis, you can use any colour as long as it achieves 30% luminance contrast.
Black was the flavour for many years, though some might say it looks a bit dated these days. I think white is preferred by most designers now, which is OK, as long as it contrasts well to the wall or floor. But if you select a white seat and a white pan, then it is dependant on the floor and wall linings for compliance, which may not be that easy to determine.
Hopefully, some entrepreneurial company is out there reading this and seeing an opportunity to produce a range of solid-coloured toilet seats in a range of new colours that are compatible with a range of AS1428.1 compliant toilet pans. As discussed above, my personal view is designers should consider this principle as a best practice approach.
This would help all occupants in a building with low vision, not just those using the accessible toilet. If there is a funky range of colours available to achieve this, then designers could continue to use their creativity, whilst still meeting the needs of people. By Lee Wilson, DDA, Disability Access and Egress Consultant, Melbourne, Australia