Vista Access Architects - Blog

Vista Access Architects - Blog

Vista Access Architects are now registered as NDIS Accredited SDA Assessors

SDA Assessors BlogIs your SDA (Specialist Disability Accommodation) Assessor a NDIS Accredited SDA Assessor?

NDIS SDA (Specialist Disability Accommodation) Assessments and Certifications under the new NDIS SDA Design Standard can only be provided by an NDIS Accredited SDA Assessor. Accredited SDA licences have just started being rolled out to eligible applicants by Livable Housing Australia.

Vista Access Architects are delighted to announce that Farah Madon has just received her Accredited SDA Assessor licence-  Number SDA00001 




Following are the requirements to become an Accredited SDA Assessor as set by the NDIA.

Accredited SDA Assessor requirements Farah Madon

Below are the NDIA requirements in regards to the independence of the Accredited SDA Assesor

The Accredited SDA Assessor must be an independent third party i.e. independent of the project Architect or Builder or Building Certifier.

At both Design (Provisional) and Final-as-built stage, the Accredited SDA Assessor cannot have a connection to the applicant, for example by way of employment or some other contractual relationship.

An Accredited SDA assessor cannot certify, at both Design (Provisional) and Final-as-built-stage, any project that has been designed (in their capacity of an Architect) or constructed by themselves (in their capacity as the Builder) or other review services (in their capacity as the BCA consultant or Private Building Certifier).

This also extends to another employee or contractors in the company associated with the project. For example, a firm with multiple architects cannot have one Architect
design and another Architect within the same firm certify the project. This is essential to maintain independence and integrity of assessment.

Accredited SDA Assessors certifying dwellings at either Design (Provisional) stage or Final as Built stage must be a third party to the builder, developer and SDA Registered Provider.

Contact us on for a fee proposal to assess and certify your SDA development.

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Location factor for NDIS Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA)

The SDA price for a particular dwelling depends on the location of the dwelling. To derive a SDA price limit for a particular dwelling, the Base Price (before the fire sprinkler allowance) is multiplied by the Location Factor relevant to the property’s location and Building Type. The location factor is noted in Appendix E – of the NDIS SDA Price Guide 2019-20. The Location Factors applied in SDA Price Guide are based on Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Statistical Area 4 regions.

Location SDASo what is SA4 area?

Statistical Areas Level 4 (SA4) are geographical areas which have been designed for the output of a variety of regional data, including data from the 2016 Census of Population and Housing. There are 107 SA4 regions covering the whole of Australia without gaps or overlaps.

The SA4s were designed using a number of criteria which reflect a balance between respective considerations such as population and labour markets. For example a population of minimum of 100,000 persons was set for the SA4s, with some exceptions to this in regional and metropolitan areas.

Labour markets were also a key consideration in the design of SA4s. The reason for this is that Labour force data has two geographic components to it - the labour supply (where people live) and demand (where people work).


How do you find what SA4 area applies to your SDA Dwelling?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics website has the information you need to determine the SA4 area.

Step 1: Go to the ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) website

Step 2: Select the icon for "Geocoder search"

Step 3: Input the dwelling address.

Step 4: In the field that says “Choose a boundary type” select “2016 Statistical Area Level 4 (SA4)” from the drop down options.

Step 5: Click on the map and the results will be displayed as shown below.

Geography type: Statistical Area Level 4 (SA4) (2016)
Name: Sydney - Outer West and Blue Mountains
Code: 124

The resulting name field (shown highlighted above) is the SA4 Location. 

[Image description: Image above is a snapshot of a computer screen of a search for SA4 area on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website]

[Image description: Image above is a snapshot of a computer screen of a search for SA4 area on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website]

Once the name of the location area is determined by the above steps, it is as easy as locating the area in the location column of the Appendix E – of the NDIS SDA Price Guide 2019-20 to obtain the Location Factor based on a particulat dwelling type.

Image above is a snapshot of Appendix E-Location Factor of the NDIS SDA Price Guide














[Image description: Image above is a snapshot of Appendix E-Location Factor of the NDIS SDA Price Guide]

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Disclaimer:This article is based on Vista Access Architect’s personal interpretation of what detrmines Location factor. This article is not endorsed by the NDIA and users are advised to make their own inquires directly with NDIA.

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Can an existing dwelling be refurbished to qualify as a 'New Build' under the NDIS SDA (Specialist Disability Accommodation)?

Vista Access Architects are reguarly asked the question, 'Can an existing dwelling be refurbished to qualify as a 'New Build' under the NDIS SDA (Specialist Disability Accommodation)?'

New Old DwellingThe answer to this one in brief is 'Yes, if it can satisfy a number of conditions'. These conditions are listed in the NDIS SDA Price Guide.

To qualify as a 'New Build' under the NDIS SDA, the dwelling needs to comply with the following 5 conditions:

1. Date of Certificate of occupancy; and
2. Total number of residents in the dwelling; and
3. Design requirements of the dwelling; and
4. Density requirements; and
5. Age of the dwelling.

1. Date of Certificate of occupancy.

There are 2 options to comply with this first requirement, noted below as Option A and Option B.

Option A: The very FIRST certificate of occupancy (or equivalent) was issued on or after 1 April 2016. This is important to note the use of the word 'FIRST' in this requirement; or

Option B: The dwelling has been renovated or refurbished and issued with a certificate of occupancy (or equivalent) after 1 April 2016, and:
i) because of the renovation or refurbishment the dwelling meets the Minimum Requirements for a Design Category other than Basic design as noted in the Table 3 of the SDA Price Guide; and
ii) the cost of the refurbishment is equal to or greater than the amount set out in the SDA Price Guide, Appendix F – Minimum Refurbishment Costs for New Builds ($2019/20)

2. Total number of residents in the dwelling.

There are 2 options to comply with this second requirement, noted below as Option A and Option B.

Option A: It is enrolled to house five or fewer long-term residents (excluding support staff); or

Option B: It is the home of a participant who intends to provide SDA to themselves (as a registered provider) and to reside there with the participant’s spouse or de facto partner and children.

3. Design requirements of the dwelling.

All its shared areas, and the majority of its bedrooms and similar sized private rooms comply with the Minimum Requirements for a Design Category other than Basic design set out in Section 2B, Table 3 of the NDIS SDA Price Guide. Note that new requirements for desing apply post 1st July 2021. Read more about the design requirements here.

4. Density requirements.

The SDA developer needs to confirm that the development does not breach the density restrictions for New Builds in SDA Rules 6.14 to 6.17. The density restrictions apply when there are multiple dwellings on a single parcel of land. For more information on Density requirements, read our article on Density requirements or use our SDA Density Calculator.

5. Age of the dwelling.

Fewer than 20 years should have elapsed from the date the certificate of occupancy (or equivalent) in Condition 1 of the Definition of New Build above was issued.

New build requirements

Liked our article? Follow us on LinkedIn for more articles on SDA or contact us on for an obligation free fee proposal for the assessment of your SDA project.


This article is based on Vista Access Architect’s personal interpretation of what constitutes as a new build. This article is not endorsed by the NDIA and users are advised to make their own inquires directly with NDIA.

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NDIS SDA Density Calculator

Calculator NDIS SDA Density11

SDA Density Restrictions

"How many SDA participants can be accommodated in a development and in particular in a multi-unit residential building?". This is a very common question that we are asked by SDA developers and the answer is not that straightforward.

There are several factors to consider including the total number of people that can be accommodated in the building, the configuration of units/dwellings available and the particular configuration of the unit/dwelling that the SDA participant will occupy.

To break down the requirements, we need to understand the following:

1. NDIS document that discusses Density Restrictions.

The document that discusses the density requirements is the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) Rules 2016, Clauses 6.15 to 6.17

2. Undersatnding words that are noted in the Clauses 6.15 to 6.17 of the NDIS SDA Rules 2016 that deal with Density Restrictions.

The Clauses 6.15 to 6.17 of the NDIS SDA Rules 2016, use terms that have specific meaning as noted below:

a. ‘Single parcel of land’ (defined under NDIS SDA rules 2016)
A single parcel of land means different things in different states and territories. For example, for land located in New South Wales, a single parcel of land means all the land comprised in a ‘folio of the Register’ within the meaning of the Real Property Act 1900 (NSW) unless the land forms part of:
(i) a ‘parcel’ within the meaning of section 5 of the Strata Schemes (Freehold Development) Act 1973 (NSW);
(ii) a ‘parcel’ within the meaning of section 4 of the Strata Scheme (Leasehold Development) Act 1986 (NSW);
(iii) a ‘parcel’ within the meaning of section 4 of the Strata Schemes Development Act 2015 (NSW); or
(iv) a ‘community parcel’, ‘neighbourhood parcel’ or ‘precinct parcel’ within the meaning of section 3 of the Community Land Development Act 1989 (NSW)

b. ‘Ennrolled dwelling
is a dwelling that complies with all the requirements of NDIS SDA which would then enable it to be enrolled with the NDIS as an SDA dwelling.

c. ‘Participant’ (defined under NDIS Act 2013)
means a person who is a participant in the National Disability Insurance Scheme. In this case the participant means a person who is funded for SDA.

d. ‘Residents
are the total number of occupants of the entire development on a single parcel of land. Total resident numbers are determined on the assumption that one resident occupies one bedroom. This means that the number of participants with SDA in their plan intended to reside in the dwelling may be lower than the number of residents for which the dwelling is being enrolled (as stated in NDIS SDA Rules 2016 Clause 6.18(vi))

e. ‘Intentional communities’(Defined under NDIS SDA rules 2016)
means a residential community designed to have a high degree of social cohesion, achieved through teamwork and agreed shared values. The members of an intention community have chosen to live together based on common social values and have committed to the principle of mutual support. An intentional community:
(a) has a defined and explicit agreement under which residents have agreed to live in accordance with shared common values, including the principle of mutual support;
(b) is controlled by the members or residents and is not governed by a single entity such as a support provider; and
(c) includes general market housing, and is not solely designed to provide supported accommodation services.

3. What does 'to house three or more residents' / 'to house one or two residents' mean?

The Clauses on density, 6.15 and 6.16 permits the SDA participant numbers to be 10% or 15% of the total number of residents based on type of dwelling being enrolled (i.e.1 or 2 bedroom dwelling verses 3 or more bedroom dwelling). The selection of the Clause and therefore the applicable percentage is based on whether a SDA participant is going to occupy a 1 or 2 bedroom dwelling verses a 3 or more bedroom dwelling. So for example even if there are a combination of 2 and 3 bedroom units in a residential building and all the SDA participants will be occupying just the 2 bedroom unit type then a percentage of 15% will apply ie Clause 6.16 would apply.

The answer derived by the applicable percentage is then compared to the max number permissible (10 or 15) and the greater number of the two is the maximum permissible density.

Want it simplified even further ?

Use our NDIS SDA Density Calculator to find the density requirement in just a few clicks.

Follow us on LinkedIn for updates and more articles on Specialist Disability Accommodation.

This calculator is based only on Vista Access Architect’s personal interpretation of density restrictions noted in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (Specialist Disability Accommodation) Rules 2016. This calculator is not endorsed by the NDIA and users are advised to make their own inquires in regard to density directly with NDIA. Use calculator at your own risk. Vista Access Architects shall not be held liable for use of the Calculator.


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LRV Contrast App by Vista Access Architects judged as a finalist in the Australian Access Awards for the Educational App of the Year

LRV App by Vista Access judged a finalist in the Australian Access Awards for the Educational app of the year category'LRV Contrast' App developed by Vista Access Architects and BEZAPPS for calculating LRV (Luminance Reflectance Value) Contrast has just been judged as a finalist in the 2019 Australian Access Awards for the Educational App of the year category.

The awards are an initiative of Centre for Accessibility The role of the Centre for Accessibility is to empower the accessibility movement and encourage organisations to implement digital access when designing online resources. In 2019 they announced the inaugural Australian Access Awards, celebrating organisations that have successfully implemented accessibility in their digital campaigns or resources.

The LRV / Luminance Contrast Calculator is an easy to use educational tool, available in an online version on our website at and also available to download for free at the AppStore link for iphones / Apple devices and GooglePlay link for Android devices.

The majority of people who are blind or vision impaired have some vision. The purpose of the LRV Contrast App is to assist with selection of colours for building elements to enhance access to information and navigation of the built environment for people with vision impairment.

This is based on not the colour contrast but the luminance contrast which is the light reflected from one surface compared to the light reflected from another surface.

The LRV Contrast App can calculate the luminance contrast based on the LRV of a colour which is easily available from all colour/paint suppliers or on paint samples / fandecks. While the surface or paint finish also plays a role in the Luminance Contrast, it is anticipated that this App will assist with colour selections, at the design stage itself and assist as an educational tool for designers and builders.

The App has been designed to check if compliance could be met with minimum contrast requirements of building elements such as doorways, stairway nosing, toilet seats, signage and different types of Tactile Ground Surface Indicators as mandated under the NCC (Australian National Consruction Code). The formula is based on the Bowman-Sapolinski Equation as required by the NCC (National Construction Code) and Australian Standards AS1428.

It also has a feature to check for compliance with American DDA (Americans with Disabilities Act) LRV requirements.

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NDIS SDA Design Standard Released

Today has been an absolute career highlight day with the launch of the NDIS Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) Design Standard by the Hon Stuart Robert MP, Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Being the lead author of the NDIS SDA Design Standard has been challenging, but also rewarding to know that it will significantly raise the bar of accommodation designed for people with disabilities.

I would like to thank everyone who provided feedback during the consultation process. But in particular I would like to thank Toni McInnes and Alison McLeod from NDIA, Bruce Bromley and Eric Martin from my technical writing team, Stuart Christie and Alex Waldren from LHA, for being an integral part of this 10 month long journey with me to develop the very first NDIS Design Standard for SDA.

SDA Design Standard is available for download from the NDIS website.

The SDA Design Standard sets out the future requirements of well designed and built form of new SDA. The NDIA recognises that new build SDA projects will be underway during this time and acknowledgment of these is important, so as to not disrupt the increase to the supply of SDA.

The NDIS SDA implementation plan sets out the timing and requirements in the lead up to the Design Standard taking full effect.

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2019 Access Inclusion Award Winner

I’m delighted and honoured to be awarded the 2019 Access Inclusion Award for being the Access Consultant for a Specialist Disability Accomodation designed by Stanton Dhal Architects which demonstrated an outstanding level of Access and Inclusion. 

The award was presented by the Australian Disability Discrimination Commissioner Dr Ben Gauntlett at the National 2019 Access Conference Dinner hosted by the Association of Consultants in Access Australia.

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Australia Day Awards - Farah Madon awarded 2019 Penrith Citizen of the Year

Farah Madon was awarded the 2019 Penrith Citizen of the Year.

Below are the details as presented by Penrith City Council.

Mrs Farah Madon supports our local residents living with a disability and champions accessibility equality for all on a national level. 

Farah has dedicated herself to helping people with a disability who live, work or utilise services within the Penrith and surrounding areas. As a management commitee member of Penrith Disabilities Resource Center and Chairperson of Penrith Disabilities Action Forum she has been a key voice in advocating for and representing the needs of local residents with access needs. As a long-serving community representative member of Penrith City Council's Access Committee, Farah's knowledge has been invaluable in assisting Council to continue improving access for people of all abilities across the City.

Farah is Vice President of the Association of Consultants in Access Australia, the peak national body for access consultancy and a major partner in advancing equity of the built environment for people with a disability. Based on her thorough knowledge of the Australian Standards and the Australian Disability Discrimination Act she is also held in esteem as editor of the association's magazne, 'Access Insight'.

 Read more about the awards on

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Vista Access Architects interviewed by the Daily Telegraph

Vista Access Architects were interviewed for an article "Access All Areas" by Robyn Willis of the Home magazine of the Daily Telegraph.

The aim of the article was to demonstrate that desiging for disability can deliver beautify spaces

One of our projects that received Livable Housing Platinum Level rating ( Architect Kennedy and Associates Architects) was fetaured in the article.




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FREE Calculator for number of Receivers required for Hearing Augmentation

Hearing Augmentation is required where an inbuilt amplification system is proposed in the following areas: 

  • a Class 9b building like an assembly building or school; or
  • in an auditorium, conference room, meeting room or room for judicatory purposes; or
  • at a ticket office, teller's booth, reception area where the public is screened from the service provider.

Also any screen or scoreboard associated with a Class 9b building capable of displaying public announcements must be capable of supplementing any public address system, other than a public address sytem used for emergency warning purposes only.

Options for hearing augmentation include,

  • an induction loop to minimum 80% of the floor area served by the inbuilt amplification system; or
  • a system requiring use of receivers to a minimum of 95% of the floor area served by the inbuilt amplification system. The BCA lists the number of receivers to be provided for this system based on room occupancy.

Vista Access Architect's website has a FREE CALCULATOR FOR RECEIVERS to comply with the requirements of BCA 2016.

Additional information on Hearing Augmentation is provided in AS1428.5 - Design for access and mobility - Communication for people who are deaf or hearing impaired

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FREE Calculator for Accessible SOUs & Accessible Car parking spaces for Class 3 Buildings

Photo of an Accessible Bedroom in a HotelVista Access Architects receives regular inquires as to requirements for Accessible Car parking spaces for Class 3 developments such as Hotels, Motels, Group homes, Hostels etc.

The number of Accessible Car parking spaces for Class 3 developments depends on:
- The total number of the Car parking spaces provided in the development;
- The total number of SOUs (Sole occupancy units/ bedrooms) and
- The total number of Accessible Bedrooms as determined by BCA Table D3.1.

The calculations involve determining the Accessible SOU numbers through the BCA Table D3.1 and then multipying the total number of Car parking spaces by the percentage of the Accessible
SOUs/ Bedrooms to the total number of SOUs/ Bedrooms, with the answer taken to the next whole

Vista Access Architect's website offers a FREE Class 3 Accessible SOUs and Accessible Parking Calculator to simplify the process. Just enter the total number of SOUs/ Bedroom and the total number of Car parking spaces provided and the
Calculator will display the requirements for both, Accessible SOUs/ Bedrooms as well as the Accessible Car Parking spaces as required by the BCA 2016 for your project.

Contact us for the Accessibility requirements of your next project on

You can also upload some preliminary drawings for your project to request an obligation free Fee Proposal from our website's CONTACT page.

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Vista Access Architects are Accredited to certify Changing Places facilities.

Penrith poolWhere Accessible toilets as required under the BCA (Building Code of Australia) do not meet the needs of all people with a disability, Changing Places facilities enable social inclusion for people with severe disabilities such as spinal injuries, spina bifida, motor neurone disease and multiple sclerosis amongst others that require more assistive technology and additional spatial requirements.

Only Accredited members of ACAA (Association of Consultants in Access Australia) who have undergone Changing Places design Training can certify a Changing places facility. We are pleased to announce that Farah Madon from Vista Access Architects is now fully Accredited to certify Changing Places (registration number CP006).

Vista Access Architects have previously designed 3 Adult changing facilities with height adjustable tables and ceiling hoist facilities at Ripples Penrith Swimming Center, Triangle Park on High Street in Penrith and East lane in St. Marys (under construction).

With the introduction of Changing Places Australia a higher level of amenity can be provided in addition to an Accessible toilet.

Changing Places Registered

We can provide both; Architectural Design for the internal layout and Assessment cum Certification services for your Changing Places project.  

For more information visit Changing places  or Download Changing Places resource kit.

Contact us on for your next Changing Places Project.

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Adult Changing facility in Penrith

This design was based on the requirements of Council and based on Lift and Change facilities. Vista Access Architects are also qualified to provide design and certification as per Changing places Australia

Penrith City Council is a leader in promoting access for people with disabilities. This Adult Changing facility has an accessible toilet, an accessible hand wash basin and a full size height adjustable change table. For added convenience the facility also has been provided with a ceiling hoist with the capacity to access all areas of the facility.





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Luminance Contrast, where is it required?

Luminance Contrast is the amount of light reflected from one surface as compared to the amount of light reflected from another surface. Australian / New Zealand Standard AS/NZ 1428.4.1-2009 requires Luminance contrast in a range of 30% to 60% based on the type of building elements.

As a bare minimum for compliance with the BCA 2016, the following requirements apply:

- 30% luminance contrast to Signage, Doorways, Stairway Nosing strips, Accessible toilet seats, Lift buttons and integrated TGSIs (Tactile Ground Surface Indicators)

- Additional luminance contrast requirements apply to Discrete and Composite TGSIs. For example, 45% luminance contrast is required to Discrete TGSIs to the background, while 60% luminance contrast is required to Composite TGSIs (2 colours).

Luminance contrast is determined via on-site testing. However where LRV of 2 colours is know by means such as a fan deck, an indicative level of luminance contrast can be determined via our FREE Luminance Contrast Calculator.


Or Download our LRV Contrast app from the Google Play store or on Itunes for Apple devices.

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Handrail profile for Accessibility

Handrail cross-section for stairways and ramps are required to comply with AS1428.1-2009. The Diameters of handrails are to be between 30mm-50mm and located not less than 50mm from adjacent walls with no obstructions to top 270˚ arc. Most users prefer the dimension of 30mm diameter as it allows for a better grip as the fingers can wrap around the handrail. Australian Standards allows for a round or oval shape profile for handrails. It is important to note that this profile of handrail is also required in fire-isolated stairways.


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Decoding head height requirements for Parking spaces for people with Disabilities

There are 2 types of parking spaces identified suitable for people with Disabilities by the Australian Standards. AS/NZS 2890.6-2009 (Parking facilities—Off-street parking for people with disabilities) identifies a space of length 5.4M with a width of 2.4M allocated to a dedicated accessible parking space with an additional 2.4M width as a shared zone and AS4299-1995 (Adaptable Housing) which identifies a space of 3.8M width and 6M length. Both recommend a head height of 2.5M (although it is to be noted that the head height requirement is not an essential criteria of AS4299-1995 i.e. Class C Compliance).The head height requirements are mainly due to the use of ceiling hoists for wheelchairs as shown in the diagram below. The most popular car ceiling hoist in Australia is the Wymo Hoist. Due to the swinging arm of the ceiling hoist a 2.5M head height clear of any obstructions such as beams or sprinklers is required.


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