Creating industry change is difficult. Thirty years ago, policy makers could not understand why anyone needed kerb cuts in footpaths.
We need to reflect back on history and apply the “Curb Cut Effect” to new residential housing in Australia.
“Curb cuts” were an innovation initially implemented specifically for people with disability, but now our entire population benefits from these ramps, whether they be parents with prams, travellers wheeling suitcases, or couriers delivering heavy goods.
As Pradolin argues, when it comes to accessible design, “we all have an obligation to think long-term … the industry needs to play its part and the governments need to play their parts in ensuring that what we build is actually something that’s in the long-term interest of our country”.
As these studies indicate, including accessible features during the design phase of new builds is the best way to ensure cost-effectiveness.
Furthermore, targeted exemptions to standards could mitigate issues arising in the minority of homes with site-specific challenges, including complex topography or smaller blocks.
Including accessible design features into the code is not a big ask. The fact that some of Australia’s volume home builders are already incorporating some features as standard suggests that a broader introduction would not be a big step.
We need to act now to meet the future needs of our ageing population.
Housing is critical social infrastructure that is with us for decades, so it is vital we get it right the first time.
In years to come, the introduction of sensible accessible design features in all homes will be viewed in the same way as kerb cuts are today. They just make sense.