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How to Apply DDA to Street Furniture: Seats and Tables
Under the Australian Disability Discrimination Act 1992, known as DDA, public places must be accessible to people with a disability.
The DDA is relevant to many aspects of street furniture. This article focuses on two products:
- The seat, optimised for elderly users.
- The table setting, for wheelchair users
Why is DDA important?
DDA is part of universal design, which places human diversity at the forefront so places meet the needs of all users, regardless of age, size, disability or ability.
It ensures that public spaces can be enjoyed by everyone.
Ageing populations worldwide further increase demand for accessible design, to help people navigate and move through cities independently and in comfort.
According to the UN’s World Population Prospects: the 2019 Revision, the number of people aged 80 years or over is projected to triple, from 143 million in 2019 to 426 million in 2050.
AS1428.2 is a Guide
The Australian Standards 1428.2: Design for Access and Mobility, known as AS1428.2, is an important guide, but does not always equate to the DDA.
It is possible for products to be accessible without strictly adhering to AS1428.2 dimensions.
For instance, the AS1428.2 states the seat height, including backrest, should not exceed 790mm. However, Street Furniture Australia’s inhouse testing shows that higher backrests can provide more support.
It is also important to consider the specific user groups for each site. For example, a wheelchair-friendly table may be too high for children to reach. Or, an AS1428.2 drinking fountain could be too low for an elderly person to bend down to use.
In developing inclusive products, Street Furniture Australia generally refers to three key sources: AS1428.2, inhouse ergonomic testing and universal design principles.
The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design’s Building For Everyone Series is also a useful guide on how to design, build and manage buildings and spaces.
A Note About Comfort
It is worthwhile noting that DDA products are not always comfortable for the general population.
A typical example is the DDA seat. While an upright seat backrest greatly assists elderly users with getting up and sitting down safely, the seat profile will not be suitable for most people to relax on for long periods of time.
The best DDA products provide both comfort and accessibility. When this is not possible, you could also choose to install a range of products to cater for the various user types in the space.
DDA for Seats
DDA seats are generally geared for elderly users. Street Furniture Australia’s DDA seats include Forum Seat, Aria Seat, Classic Plaza DDA Seat, Classic Galleria DDA Seat, Mall DDA Seat, Park DDA Seat and Concourse Seat.
Some guidelines for accessible seats:
Seats should be installed at regular intervals along paths. An ageing population requires enough seats to break a journey into manageable walking distances, and protected positions that feel safe for sitting.
“A good rule of thumb for a good city is that suitable places to sit should be located at regular intervals, for example, every 100 metres,” says Jan Gehl in ‘Life Between Buildings’.
AS1428.2 recommends providing opportunities to rest every 60m.
The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design recommends a range of distances between places to rest of 50-150m, depending on user groups.
- Set seats back from pathways at least 600mm to allow leg room.
- It is best practice to provide wheelchair resting places next to seats, with floorspace of 800x1300mm.
- DDA seats always need armrests to help users sit and stand.
- Armrests should offer a flat platform for pushing off to stand.
- The top of the armrests should be 260 (within 40mm) above the seat.
- Armrests should be within the seat’s centre of gravity (not beyond the base or legs).
- Seats should generally be 400-485mm high. We recommend 485mm when pairing with DDA tables, or in areas with a high proportion of elderly users.
- Where possible, AS1428.2 recommends providing a range of seat heights. However, a mix of seat styles in a single row can cause confusion for some people with visual difficulties.
- Keep a clear heel space between the legs at the front of the seat, and to within 100mm of the seat height, so users can adjust their feet backwards when rising.
- A standalone bench – without a seat back – cannot adhere to DDA.
- Maximum angle of 105°.
- Total back height according to AS1428.2 should be a minimum of 750mm.
- Seat edges or projections should have a radius of at least 5mm, unless they are protected from contact with the user.
- The seat must drain free of water.
DDA for Table Settings
DDA Tables can be specified with wheelchair access at either or both ends, or with shorter benches for side access.
Some guidelines for accessible DDA table settings:
- Picnic tables should be placed on level sheltered sites and served by accessible paths.
- Height from the ground level to tabletop should be 750-850mm to enable universal use. However, AS1428.2 recommends 830-870mm.
- Height of clearance beneath the table to the ground should be at least 700mm. The AS1428.2 recommends 800-840mm.
- To accommodate a wheelchair, provide a minimum clearance of 620mm from table edge to table leg.
Although DDA seats generally require armrests, armrests are not recommended for DDA table settings, as access is more difficult.
Both seats and benches (without backs) are acceptable for a DDA table setting.
DDA tables are generally higher than standard tables. Remember to also select higher seats and benches to ensure comfort. Street Furniture Australia recommends a bench height of 485mm.
DDA should be considered as one of many elements in universal design for public spaces, which strives to make places accessible to everyone.
AS1428.2 is a guide and does not always equate to the DDA. It is also possible for products to be accessible without strictly adhering to AS1428.2 dimensions.
Where products cannot provide comfort and include all users, you may choose to position a range of furniture types for the community in the space.
- Australian Disability Discrimination Act 1992
- Australian Standards 1428.2: Design for Access and Mobility
- The 7 Principles of Universal Design, North Carolina State University
- Building For Everyone Series, Centre for Excellence in Universal Design
- Life Between Buildings, Jan Gehl
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