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NDIS SDA Accredited Assessor

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Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) Design Standards for the NDIS are in transition. Want to know more? The audio content of this video is transcribed here to improve access.

Your proposed project could do with an SDA Assessment report. As you are aware, the N.D.I.S. is being rolled out across the country, to more than 600,000 Australians who live with disabilities.

At the moment, SDA remains in a transitional period, between two acceptable standards. 

Where your building is NOT YET CONSTRUCTED, such as, in the design phase, compliance with the new SDA STANDARD is required. If you have been granted an extension of time by the NDIS, your dwelling may be eligible for compliance with teh Livable Housing Design Guidelines.

Our objective in preparing your SDA report is to assist you in registering your housing for SDA, in the category that best suits your design or your existing building as the case may be.

There are several categories of home, for registration under N.D.I.S. as SDA. The homes are either described as, New Builds or, Existing Stock. New build categories involving renovations of an existing home require a minimum construction expenditure that has been stipulated in the current, SDA Pricing and Payments guide!

The home designs must target relevant N.D.I.S. Categories, which could include Improved livability; Fully Accessible; Robust; and, High Physical Support.

Additional rent is provided for, Onsite Overnight Assistance; fire sprinkler installations, and also, Break out rooms for the robust category! Each of the nominated categories has specific inclusion requirements to enable them to be registered.

For enrolment of your dwelling, the NDIS is presently asking for evidence, by way of an occupancy certificate dated after 2016, that demonstrates that the dwelling (or renovation) is "new". Existing Stock is a home that has been occupied by a person who lives with a disability, and, who received government-funded supports prior to 2016 at that address.

Concerning the new SDA Standard, its requirements are demonstrated by a pass or fail certification from an accredited SDA Assessor. Gary Finn of Sydney Access Consultants is an accredited SDA assessor, having extensive experience as an architect in the design and documentation of group homes for state government agencies since 2006, and has accumulated years of full time professional experience in designing & documenting buildings that accommodate people who live with disabilities, since 1980. Sydney Access Consultants continue to provide a design and documentation service, or design advice by review of your architect's plans. Of course, when design services are provided by Gary Finn, he is excluded from certifying that SDA, which is no obstacle to the expedient success of the project. 


If your building is registered under the current SDA standards, the N.D.I.S. does not require you to update, your existing stock, however, an assessment of the key design elements to ascertain the extent of maintenance and modification may assist you to provide a safer home and workplace that reflects best practices. An upgrade strategy starts with a "walk and talk" audit by Sydney Access Consultants.

There is also a limit on the number of SDA recipients that can reside on each allotment of land stipulated by the NDIS as a Density limit.

The process required, to ensure that your home is suitable for registration into the category of SDA that you prefer, is easily achieved by engaging an accredited SDA Certifier.

An architect with Gary's credentials an accredited SDA Certifier can professionally assist you with the construction, design, and, documentation processes.

Or alternatively, you can engage an accredited SDA Certifier such as Gary, to certify your home at the Design Stage and, then once more upon completion of the building work. To get started, ask Sydney Access Consultants for a fee proposal for one of its professional services.


Gary Finn, the architect has worked in the design documentation and delivery of public and social housing developments since the inception of his practice in 1993. He prepared designs and documentation of community health and development projects in remote indigenous communities throughout NSW until around 2005 when the NSW government commissioned the firm to design and document Group Homes for people who live with disabilities.

General Background
In early 2000, the Department of Social Services implemented a devolution program for the care and support of people who live with disabilities. In NSW, the Department of Aging Disability and Home Care undertook a strategy to purchase and build housing which was interspersed throughout the community and became known as Group Homes for which the NSW Infrastructure SEPP was modified. That SEPP provided avenues for government agencies to expedite construction needed to meet the obvious needs. The government also implemented private not-for-profit housing strategies to assist with the diverse needs of housing people who live with disabilities across the state. 

In 2009, the Affordable Rental Housing SEPP was introduced which provided for construction of group homes as “complying development” subject to satisfying the included design schedule. The purpose was to expedite the delivery of diverse housing in the sector because of the dire housing shortage throughout NSW.

2010 saw the introduction of the National Disability Strategy 2010-2020 and welcomed the NDIS, which introduced the further privatisation of housing specifically tailored to suit residents of NSW who live with disabilities. A diverse range of homes and housing types were welcomed, as demonstrated in the SDA Price Guide.

www.ndis.gov.au/provi...dation <https://www.ndis.gov.au/providers/housing-and-living-supports-and-services/specialist-disability-accommodation>

Gary Finn provided design and documentation services for over 50 group homes between 2005 and the introduction of the NDIS, interspersed in residential areas across the state. Following a business restructure in 2016, we now provide design and documentation services to NDIS providers around Australia.

As you are aware, the N.D.I.S. is being rolled out across the country, to more than 600,000 Australians who live with disabilities.

At the moment, SDA is nearing the end of a transitional period, between two acceptable design standards. There is existing stock to consider, as well as encouraging investors to develop new stock interspersed within typical residential precincts.

Done well, the NDIS provides an empowerment opportunity to enable NDIS recipients to make informed decisions about their own future, for the very first time.

The NDIS targets the needs of people who are young. Eligible recipients of NDIS planning are sometimes young people who are living in aged care accommodation because there are no other options available. The NDIS recognises that this accommodation is not particularly appropriate for younger people who have their own aspirations and desires, perhaps exactly like their peers who do not live with a disability, and like them, they would choose if they could, to live near friends and family, interspersed throughout residential neighbourhoods across the state.


There has been considerable interest by the private sector in providing SDA, because of the potential for higher rental returns supported by NDIS funds allocated to individual recipients. Our view of the growing interest is clear. At some point in time, there will be an oversupply of SDA on the market. Recipients of SDA funding will eventually have a choice of housing to occupy. What would you choose? It seems obvious that the better developments, offering a home environment in which a recipient can participate in everyday life, will be the homes that are occupied.

We, therefore, encourage developers to consider these risks.

Firstly, we encourage developers to recognise that their substantial investment should remain viable with or without SDA participants.

Secondly, we encourage developers to recognise that people who live with disabilities want to live in a house and enjoy their home, just like everybody else. So, before building the development you have in mind now, ask yourself "Would I like to live in this house?"



Accredited SDA Assessor

NDIS SDA Accredited Assessor Logo


This is a really common question. The Australian Standards AS1428.1 requires a minimum clear opening of 850mm to provide clearances for the 90th Percentile wheelchair.  Practically, smaller door openings will provide for smaller wheelchairs, however, the Standards have been derived, with a line in the sand and, provided your doorway is a min 850 clear of any obstructions, it is lawful.

The reality is that some wheelchairs can fit through much smaller openings safely, and other wheelchairs are simply too wide, even for an 850 clear opening. In a private house, you could, by using personal ergonomic measurements, design the door widths and corridors to suit the resident's clearance requirements and not follow the standards at all.

There are other exceptions to the door width required by the Standards. In NSW Nursing homes, for instance, doorways are required to be wider than the minimum in the standards, especially when occupants are evacuated in emergency situations while remaining in their beds. Clearances are needed to fit the bed through the door (obviously without tipping it sideways, since there is a resident on the bed!) Details for those doorway clearances and corridor widths are stipulated in the building code and big problems (with big rectification costs) are caused by mere millimetre indiscretions.

There's more to traversing through a door opening than simply getting the door size right. There are circulation space requirements either side of the door to enable a person to operate it, and there are door handle requirements, as well as the force required to operate the door. All of these limitations mean that you'd better obtain the right advice first up, to avoid costly rebuilds. Contact Sydney Access Consultants for a review of  your project.



Over the last 30 years, I've designed Child Care Centres for both the private and public sector, around 20, I guess. They each have one common thread, namely, good access. Mothers with prams and a toddler in tow, vehicular movement and safe separation for daydreaming pedestrians, consideration for the circulation spaces required by groups of people moving together,  shower and toilet facilities for those little accidents, with all the space required for a teacher to assist in the cleanup... You get the idea. Identifying these thoughts for design generally, doesn't consider the Building Code's requirements for disability access. However, if you resolve those parameters adequately, then you'll quickly see that a person who takes advantage of the use of a wheelchair to assist with mobility, can readily circulate within the spaces you've provided and compliance with the Disability Access to Premises Standards 2009 is easily achieved.

So what are the key elements of circulation in a child care centre?

1) Safe car parking, wide enough for a parent to unload the children, unfold a pram, grab all the bags etc, all the while keeping the children out of the traffic aisle. It's true that you must provide a car space compliant with AS 2890.6, which conveniently satisfies the needs of every parent drop off. If only you had the luxury of space to provide an open shared zone between every two vehicles!

2) Safe, step free walkway so that mum can push the pram with one hand, while holding an excited toddler in the other. Conveniently, you must provide a step free accessible path of travel at least 1m clear wide, for wheelchair access from the accessible vehicle bay to the principal pedestrian entry, all to AS 1428.1. Why not make every space as useful to accomodate prams?

3) A step free entry door, preferably under cover, in a zone secured by fencing so that toddlers cannot run off into the carpark, with circulation space adequate for mum to park the pram, step around it, and operate the security door. Under the BCA and AS 1428.1, you must provide a door with min 850 clear opening, with accessible lever action handles, with enough circulation space for a wheelchair user to side up against the door and operate the intercom and levers. There are strict minimum circulation spaces required on the hinge side and the handle side of the opening.

4) A step free door threshold, for convenient pram access. You must provide a step free threshold for disability access to AS 1428.1

5) The ability to turn the pram around and exit the door without assistance. You must provide circulation space in a corridor to enable a wheelchair to turn 180 degrees, to AS 1428.1 Similarly, the exit side of the door must provide at least the min circulation spaces required for  wheelchair user to open the door from the inside to exit without assistance.


I could continue this process throughout the child care centre and into the playground, but by now you ought realise that disability access is not a burden, in fact, it is quite a useful design feature for everyone, particularly in a child care setting.

There are exceptions to the requirement for disability access within child care centres, store rooms for instance, and some other areas. Please send us your design for a review prior to DA so that we can assist you in meeting the disability access requirements without compromising child numbers.





There are numerous private colleges throughout Sydney and we are regularly asked to attend the site to review a problem raised by the Building Certifier during construction. A little bit of forward planning can eliminate those frustrating moments and delays.

We recommend that a review of the design drawings be undertaken prior to the commencement of construction, at the latest. This enables us to guide your design decisions with respect to the built environment, to minimise the potential for a claim abasing you under the Disability Discrimination Act 1993. You are further notified to review your obligations under the Disability Access to Education Standards prepared by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

For any School (BCA Classification 9(b)), with very few exceptions, an accessible unisex bathroom must be provided. The exact circumstances of your development will enable an access consultant to determine whether any of the potential exceptions apply to your development, therefore, you really ought to issue your plans early in the design stages to satisfy yourself that you have adequate floor area and circulation spaces to meet the requirements of the Building Code.

Depending on the door location and plan layout of fitments, the space required for circulation space within an accessible toilet must be at least, say 2640 x 2100mm,  clear of wall linings, tiles and so on. 

There are also mandatory inclusions under AS1428.1 for instance:

  • An accessible pan & seat
  • A sanitary pad disposal unit
  • Grab rails and back rest
  • A vanity basin without plumbing protruding underneath and onto the floor
  • A shelf
  • A coat hook
  • A door with a minimum clear opening of 850mm (a 920 door leaf might just achieve that depending on the installation technique and thickness of the door).
  • Adequate lighting
  • A non slip floor surface
  • appropriatr accessible signage
  • accessible door furniture

It’s a best case scenario to send us your plans prior to the commencement of construction (at the latest) so that your layout can be certified as capable of compliance prior to your commencement.


There are numerous standards that apply to new apartment developments in NSW.

The NSW Gov have implemented the Apartment Design Guide which requires diversity in apartment design to accomodate the 20% of our population who are living with disabilities. Councils too have recognised that there is an ageing population that faces access challenges. Indeed, so many people make up the demographic of over sixty fives that it is recognised that home care will be the go to retirement plan, usurping Retirement Villages. The future will see home owners seeking to modify their dwellings to adapt to ageing and frailty, which can be done discretely and without devaluing the usefulness of the property to future owners.

There is in NSW, and will continue to be a massive imbalance in the available accessible or adaptable homes suitable for this ageing group.

The Savvy Councils have insisted on a higher proportion of "adaptable housing" and "Livable housing" in consumer derived apartment developments. Often these measures are in addition to the State Government minimums.

We are regularly assessing developments for compliance with:

  • AS 4299 Adaptable Housing Standards
  • Livable Housing design Guidelines
  • Senior's SEPP housing
  • AS 1428.1 access throughout the common areas of class 2 developments.

These planning regulations often compete and contradict, so we have developed clear method of assessment to guide developments through the minefield of access requirements and regulatory controls.