Aquarena Access Audit

Architecture & Access approach all access audits with the same goal: to ensure the environment is safe and accessible for a diverse range of people, including those with physical, sensory, and cognitive disabilities, neurodiversity and people who are older

Aquarena Aquatic and Leisure Centre has been an invaluable community asset since it opened in 1969. For over half a century it has provided a point of social connection and supported the physical and mental health of generations of Manningham residents and visitors.

Over the decades, the centre has been upgraded and expanded and now provides a wide range of sport, recreation and wellbeing facilities and programs for people of all ages, including indoor and outdoor pools, spa, sauna, waterslide, aqua-play areas, diving pool, gymnasiums, consulting rooms, program rooms, a café and a stand-alone multipurpose facility for ‘Active Adults’ which is run by the Momentum Group.

Whilst the programs offered support the active engagement of a wide range of people, many areas of the facilities are ageing and do not meet current accessibility standards and therefore are not inclusive of people with disability. City of Manningham is now in the process of developing its Master Plan for Aquarena and is undertaking extensive consultation to understand what the community needs and wants in sport, recreation, and wellbeing.

As part of the Master Plan development process, Architecture & Access was contracted to undertake an access audit of Aquarena’s infrastructure. In addition to conducting a detailed review of the built environment, we spoke with key stakeholders to understand the user experience and operational concerns. Architecture & Access Access’ Consultants, Ellen Naismith and Ngoc Autran conducted the audit for the City of Manningham. “Features of a universally accessible environment benefit all users, not just those with a disability”, says Ellen .

The objectives of the audit were to evaluate the current environment and to identify features which:

  • Do not meet the technical requirements of the National Construction Code/Building Code (NCC/BCA) and its referenced Australian Standards for disability access within the built environment
  • Are not mandatory, but are based on other Australian Standards, relevant industry documentation and Architecture & Access’ professional opinion. These are recommended to meet the intent of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and the principles of universal access more closely
  • May leave the council exposed to a potential claim under the DDA
  • Assist in planning future works on the site

When conducting the Aquarena audit we considered:

  • Who uses the facility, including general public, visitors and staff
  • The purpose and function of the built environment, including areas where access may be inappropriate or unsafe for a person with a disability
  • The existing built structures, surrounding landscape and topography
Image Credit: City of Manningham

An accessible environment is one which provides safe, dignified, and equitable access for all users of the building. Ellen’s and Ngoc’s assessment methods used during the audits were observation, photography, physical metric measurement, gradient measurement and force requirements.

A detailed report was provided to the City of Manningham and included:

  • A summary of identified access issues
  • Advice for how compliance can be achieved
  • Best practice recommendations that align with Universal Design principles and community expectations

By designing for a diverse range of needs that include physical, sensory and cognitive disabilities, neurodiversity and dementia, as well as for LGTBQIA+ and culturally diverse communities, Aquarena can be re-imagined as a recreation and wellness space that is inclusive and accessible to everyone.

Posted in Access Consulting