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An Accessible NCC with Plain English

One of the most important initiatives to come out of the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) this year has been the improved National Construction Code (NCC) readability and usability project.

Under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, Australian Government agencies are required to provide information in a non-discriminatory accessible format. The ABCB has now taken positive steps to provide access to the NCC on an equal basis for all users.

Readability has been described by the ABCB as the concept that a document can be comprehended by anyone, whether you have a high school certificate or Master’s degree. Ultimately, the ABCB intends to ensure that the NCC requirements are “as easy as possible to understand no matter who you are, or how regularly you use it.”

This move towards a more readable and accessible NCC began in 2015 when the ABCB commenced work to allow greater access to the NCC as part of a regulatory reform program. This program included providing free online access to the NCC and moving to a 3-year NCC cycle, which commenced on 01 May 2016. The next version of the NCC is due in 2019 and is currently available as a draft document for public comment (until 13 April 2018).

During this reform process the ABCB has been working with communication specialists to improve the NCC’s accessibility and usability through the following strategies:

  • Improving the readability of NCC content, including greater use of plain language, a simpler structure and less clutter in the format.
  • Removal of ‘clutter’ (such as the deleted sections or blank clauses).
  • The digitisation of the NCC, with improved web accessibility with a view to meet WCAG 2.0 compliance.
  • Improving accessibility of the NCC for various digital platforms including PC, tablets, smartphones, and for screen reader users.
  • Enhanced NCC educational and guidance materials to improve understanding and use.

The availability of a free online version of the NCC has created increased use and availability of what was previously limited to practitioners willing to pay for online or print access. As a result, registered online users of the NCC have increased from 15,000 to 167,000 and with this has come an increased number of enquiries about intent, interpretation and readability issues.

NCC 2019 will see a number of digitisation improvements to enhance access and understanding through a range of new and refreshed technologies that take into account the increased range of user’s abilities and needs.

Some of these initiatives are clearly evident in the draft of NCC 2019, including a revamped interpretation section and removal of most tables within the document.

You can provide comment on the draft until 13 April 2018.