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Accessible and inclusive amenities on campus

Practitioners often inquire about accessible and inclusive amenities such as toilets and bathrooms, so we have put together some helpful guidelines to consider when planning or developing amenities that are suitable for a diverse range of users on campus.

Campuses should be welcoming places for students, staff and visitors Amenities such as toilets, bathrooms, parenting facilities, student quiet rooms, safe spaces and accessible parking are vital to supporting diverse users on campus and careful planning is required to make them fit for purpose.

Below are some helpful resources for consideration.

Legislative obligations and building codes

Tertiary education providers have a legal obligation to meet relevant legislation and standards including the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, the Disability Standards for Education and relevant building codes to ensure people with disability can access all parts of the campus.

The law requires all new and affected parts of a whole or refurbished building meet mandatory design requirements which are based on current legislation, codes and standards reflecting contemporary design principles to meet the needs of people with disability. Mandatory requirements are the minimum standards that need to be met in the design and construction of all new buildings and in the refurbishment of existing buildings.

The following is a list of current legislative requirements and referenced Australian Standards that are mandatory for provision of access to the built environment for people with disability:

Other related standards you should be aware of include:

  • AS 1428.1 Design for access and mobility
  • AS 1428.2 Enhanced and additional requirements
  • AS 1428.3 Requirements for children and adolescents with physical disabilities
  • AS 1428.4 Tactile ground surface indicators for orientation of people with vision impairment
  • AS 1428.5 Communication for people who are deaf or hearing impaired
  • AS 2890.6 – Parking Facilities – Off-street parking for people with disabilities
  • AS 1735.12 – Lifts, escalators and moving walks – Facilities for persons with disabilities.

These standards are not freely available and must be purchased from Standards Australia. Check with your facilities management team to see if they have access to print or digital copies.

It should be noted that meeting mandatory or minimum requirements may still not meet the needs of all users. Several additional considerations include:

  • applying Universal Design principles to the planning process
  • considering exceeding current standards for good practice and future-proofing
  • collaborating with subject matter experts such as disability or equity practitioners, occupational health and safety staff, security etc
  • consulting with people with lived experience.

Universal Design principles

The Universal Design Guideline does not seek to replicate, define or explain the content of the requirements embedded in documents such as the Building Code of Australia or its referenced Australian Standards on access and mobility. The aim is to exceed minimum standards in an effort to guide design that is fit for purpose and which can be used by the broadest range of people.

7 Principles of Universal Design: Equitable, Flexible, Simple and Intuitive, Perceptible, Tolerance for error, Low physical effort, Physical Accessibility

The seven principles of Universal Design are:

Principle 1: Equitable Use
Principle 2: Flexibility in Use
Principle 3: Simple and Intuitive Use
Principle 4: Perceptible Information
Principle 5: Tolerance for Error
Principle 6: Low Physical Effort
Principle 7: Size and Space for Approach and Use

These principles were developed in 1997 by a group of architects, product designers, engineers and environmental design researchers, led by the late Ronald Mace. They work as a guide for the design of environments, products and communications. Universal Design principles have also been applied to teaching and learning.

The key aims of each principle are outlined by the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design and 'may be applied to evaluate existing designs, guide the design process and educate both designers and consumers about the characteristics of more usable products and environments.'

Accessible bathroom and toilet facilities

Here are some considerations for more inclusive sanitary facilities:

  • where feasible, eliminate doors to entrances of sanitary facilities while still maintaining privacy and dignity, as this will negate the requirement to open heavy doors which may include inaccessible handles or airlocks, aid navigation and enhance the physical safety of users
  • keep facilities unlocked as locating a key or a member of staff may delay access to the toilet causing, at the least, unnecessary comfort for people who experience a sense of urgency
  • provide adequate lighting in all sanitary facilities and cubicles 
  • install both visual and auditory emergency warning systems into all sanitary facilities, parenting and resting rooms
  • prioritise installation of sensor or lever taps in all instances
  • install coat hooks in all cubicles and provide adequate shelving adjacent to basins
  • provide a comfortable and easy to use space in all toilet cubicles. allowing for adequate space for manoeuvrability for all users
  • install well designed hand basins that adequately contain water, without splashing
  • where feasible, provide basins that are accessible to wheelchair users, people of shorter stature, and children
  • consider placement of a full-length mirror (appropriately framed so it does not appear to be an opening) on an end wall, to assist in the safety of people unable to hear when a person enters behind them and to allow users to adjust clothing
  • consider installing wall mounted grab rails on either side of urinals to provide both left and right hand support options
  • provide sensor operated hand dryers that do not require the accurate placement of hands to operate dryer plus a paper towel option
  • consider the placement of sanitary bins and other objects within cubicles to maintain adequate space
  • where toilet and shower facilities are combined, provide a layout that does not require a person, using the toilet only, to walk or wheel over a potentially wet and slippery floor surface
  • provide grab rails and grab rail strength towel rails to provide users with additional support as they navigate facilities
  • provide sufficient shelving and clothes hooks off the floor 
  • position fittings and fixtures to allow for limited reach range and ease of use
  • ensure that baby change tables are not just installed in accessible toilets so that accessible toilets are available for people with disability
  • accessible toilets should ideally be provided on all levels of multi-storey buildings but if this is not feasible then give priority to common use areas where demand is likely to be higher and provide visibility and access to these facilities including close to lifts
  • consider if emergency call buttons are required in accessible toilets and ensure their placement is within reach 
  • ensure that all spaces are maintained appropriately including ensuring doors and locks work, lighting and plumbing are in good working order, toilet paper and paper towels are regularly checked and refilled and ensure regular cleaning protocols are in place.

Changing Places

It is a basic human right to be able to access a clean, safe, and private place to go to the toilet.

Changing Places or Accessible Adult Change Facilities (AACF) are larger than standard accessible toilets which provide people with disability and high support needs access to suitable, safe, and private bathroom facilities.

AACF enable many people with high support needs to enjoy day-to-day activities that many of us take for granted, such as going to work, school or university, playing in the park, or attending cultural, sporting, or social and family events.

These facilities include:

  • height-adjustable adult-sized change table
  • constant-charging ceiling track hoist system
  • centrally-located peninsula toilet
  • additional circulation space larger than standard accessible toilets
  • an automatic door with a clear opening of 950 mm at a minimum
  • a privacy screen.

For more information on designing Changing Places facilities visit the Changing Places website

In considering the specific needs for accessible toilets and facilities universities and schools are identified as 'Class 9B buildings' under the National Construction Codes, and in May 2019 the Australian Building Codes Board brought in the requirement for other Class 9B buildings to install accessible adult change facilities* into public buildings including:

  • new or redeveloped shopping centres with a design occupancy greater than 3,500
  • new museums, art galleries and theatres with a design occupancy greater than 1,500
  • new stadia with a design occupancy greater than 35,000
  • new indoor aquatic facilities with a main pool area perimeter exceeding 70m.
  • all new or redeveloped airports.

Note: *Education facilities were exempted from this requirement but it is worth considering upgrading facilities to include this option.

All Gender toilets

All Gender toilets are facilities that can be used by everyone. They do not have gendered signage, and do not require the person using them to define themselves. Installation of All Gender toilets, along with other types of toilets such as single gender, unisex accessible, ambulant, Accessible Adult Change Facilities (AACF) and Assistance Animal Relief Areas support the principles of access and inclusion. They provide the opportunity for people to make choices about which toilet they may need or prefer to use based on their individual requirements.

Research by UCLA's Williams Institute indicates that ‘Bathroom Anxiety’ is a phenomenon experienced by gender diverse people when an appropriate toilet facility is not provided. This leads to increased levels of anxiety and depression and lower levels of class attendance at university. Extensive consultation found that the term ‘All Gender’ is preferred to ‘Gender- Neutral’ or ‘Unisex’ and is the most inclusive of the broad spectrum of gender. Everyone needs to feel comfortable and safe when using a toilet.

Isn't a Unisex Accessible toilet enough?

No! Simply adding 'Unisex' to accessible toilets is not sufficient for a number of reasons:

  • Trans people who are not disabled don’t want to occupy bathrooms designated for people with accessibility needs
  • Trans people may receive unwanted attention, with others questioning why they are using a bathroom for mobility impaired people
  • the word “Unisex” assumes a binary male or female. Consider using terms like “all gender” instead
  • all-gender bathrooms can reduce waiting times for all people.

The resources below can assist in planning all gender facilities:

Accessible parking

Parking on campus is always a challenge, especially on city campuses. Eligible people with disability can apply for accessible parking through the Australian Disability Parking Scheme (ADPS) This link takes you away from the ADCET page. The ADPS includes an Australian Disability Parking Permit, which is recognised nationally. It also establishes nationally consistent eligibility criteria and national minimum parking concessions to help reduce the barriers for permit holders when travelling interstate. State and Territory Governments are responsible for the management of the ADPS.

All enquiries about permit applications, cost, eligibility and use should be directed to the relevant State or Territory authority.

Australian Capital Territory 
New South Wales
Northern Territory
South Australia
Western Australia

Signage for disability parking

Permit holders can use in parking spaces showing the international symbol of access and can receive concessions in most public parking spaces where the sign or meter shows specific time limits. For further information about permits that are not part of the Australian Disability Parking Scheme, please contact the issuing agency in your area.

The national minimum standards for disability parking concessions give States and Territories the flexibility to provide additional concessions to meet the needs of local permit holders. All disability parking permit holders will therefore need to check the local rules for parking and obey all other road and parking conditions.

Students who don't have a disability parking permit but may need to negotiate temporary access to parking through the Disability or Equity Units. Education providers may need to consider providing accessible parking as part of a learning access plan to support people with illness or injury, domestic or family violence, or other mitigating circumstances other than disability. This may involve discussions with facility management teams to support access to additional parking bays.

Student access rooms 

For more information on this topic go to our page on Student Access Rooms

Animals on campus

For information on animals on campus go to our pages on service dogs, assistance animals and companion animals on campus.

Children on campus and parenting facilities

For the most part tertiary education is the domain of adults, but many education providers are also public spaces which invite visitors of all ages to their campuses. Education providers must endeavour to provide safe and accessible spaces for all, including children. In addition, students and staff who have parenting or caring responsibilities for children may need to bring their children on campus.

Education providers are encouraged to consider the specific needs of parents and carers with responsibilities for children, including:

  • safety considerations for children and others
  • impacts of children on campus in learning and working environments
  • access to amenities such as parenting rooms, parking and transportation
  • reasonable adjustments to work and study to help balance parenting and carer responsibilities including students and staff with responsibilities for a child with disability.

Most education providers will have a 'children on campus' policy to provide guidance to students and staff around this issue. Consider if you need to develop a policy or review your existing policy.

Under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 it is unlawful to discriminate against a carer or assistant supporting a person with disability, and there are federal, state and territory anti-discrimination laws which make it unlawful to discriminate against people on the grounds of sex, pregnancy, breastfeeding and family responsibilities.

Efforts should be made to accommodate students and staff with carer or parenting responsibilities. Options to support students and staff may include:

  • reasonable adjustments in a Learning Access Plan to support students with carer or parenting responsibilities 
  • reasonable adjustments for staff working with Human Resources
  • accessible parenting rooms and facilities.

Parenting rooms

The purpose of parent rooms is to provide students, staff and visitors with appropriate facilities to feed and/or change their babies or young children, and a private space to express milk and breastfeed babies.

Typically parenting rooms should include:

  • baby change tables with appropriate services for nappy disposal
  • lockers
  • private spaces for breastfeeding or expressing
  • a microwave for heating milk and food
  • a refrigerator for storing milk
  • access to hot and cold running water
  • located adjacent to toilet facilities
  • be non-gendered
  • be accessible including automatic doors; room to manoeuvre wheelchairs, prams, walkers; accessible kitchen benches; access to accessible toilets; and other accessibility features.  

Consider exploring best practice guidelines through the Australian Breastfeeding Association.

Further resources