Posted: 9 December 2016
The matter to be determined was whether the proposed platform lift, as a means of access to the one of three pools in an aquatic centre, complied with D1 of the Building Code to the extent required by section 118 of the Act. Section 118 requires (in part) a newly constructed building to provide reasonable and adequate access to be made for persons with disabilities who may visit or work in that building and/or carry out normal activities in that building.
The building work and background
The proposed aquatic centre comprised three indoor pools with a single building. The pools had distinct uses: a learn-to-swim pool, a teaching pool, and a water polo/high-performance pool. The polo/high-performance pool measures 34.5x25m, and has a uniform depth of 2.2m. The learn-to-swim pool measures 20x8m, and varies in depth from 700 to 950m. The teaching pool, which was the subject of this determination, measures 25x11.5m, and varies in depth from 950 to 110mm.
This determination followed an earlier determination (the first determination) which considered what reasonable and adequate access was for people with disabilities to the three pools. The first determination concluded that the means of access to both the water polo/high-performance pool and the learn-to-swim pool complied with D1 of the Building Code:
Water polo/high-performance pool
This pool’s intended use was for competitive swimming and water polo and had recessed step-ladders and an access hoist. The first determination concluded that a person with a disability using this pool is likely to be a confident swimmer, who would be able to enter the water or use the hoist unaided.
This pool's intended use was as a learn-to-swim pool and had shallow fixed steps along the full length of the shallow side, a moveable hoist and a set of removable stairs. Its users, who were likely to be young children, would be subject to a greater level of supervision and assistance – adults would be taught in the slightly deeper teaching pool. A child with a disability using this pool is likely to be assisted into the pool by an adult should they not be able to use the steps or the hoist unassisted.
In regards to the teaching pool, however, the first determination found that Clause D1 was not satisfied:
The pool’s intended use was as a teaching pool, and had removable stairs, recessed ladders, and a removable hoist. The first determination found that the deeper teaching pool is more likely to be utilised by older children and adults for lessons, games and fitness classes, and concluded that the pool did not comply with Clause D1. The proposed access features were considered insufficient, and a permanent means of access was required that was able to be used unaided by people with a wide range of disabilities. The determination suggested a fixed ramp as a possible compliance option.
Following the first determination, the applicant proposed to provide access to the teaching pool by using a platform lift and recessed ladders. The applicant sought guidance from MBIE on whether this proposal would comply with the Building Code.
The platform lift’s compliance with D1 of the Building Code
The proposed platform lift is fixed to the pool’s edge. The manufacture’s specification for the platform lift includes the following features:
- a platform able to take a submersible wheelchair or several people standing
- powered by rechargeable batteries with 50 cycles before recharging, 20 seconds to lower to a 0.9m depth
- user-operated, with a descent, ascent, and depth controlled by the user
- can be raised manually.
The applicant submitted that the platform lift provides an equal level of access to a ramp which would be deemed complaint with NZS 4121. When comparing the functionality of the lift with a ramp, the applicant submitted that:
- the size of the pool and its intended use means that the platform lift would be adequate in terms of capacity.
- a ramp can take people out of their depth
- water resistance, when using a ramp, can present a difficulty
- the platform lift can be operated solely by the user, whereas a ramp can require assistance.
The determination also considered the test of “reasonable and adequate”, which is a requirement of both Clause D1 and section 118. The determination concluded that the term adequate would take into account the modest volume and capacity of the pool. As to reasonable; the platform lift is able to be used by ambulant users and those in wheelchairs.
In addition, there was nothing apparent in the proposal that would limit any reasonably foreseeable use if the operation or ownership of the aquatic centre changed. The determination referred to standards and guidance on pool access from England, Australia and the United States. These contemplated the use of platform-style lifts, and the use of a platform lift as an alternative to a ramp for a pool of this size.
It was concluded that the platform lift alone would provide reasonable and adequate access for people with disabilities to the teaching pool. This conclusion was based on the lift’s comparison with a ramp, the pool’s capacity and intended use, and because the lift is a means of access for both wheelchair users and those that are ambulant.
This determination confirmed that the proposed means of access by way of recessed ladders and a platform lift to the teaching pool as part of the pool complex complies with Clause D1 to the extent required by section 118 of the Act.