Can you have multiple categories of SDA on different stories within the same house or villa without a passenger lift?

Photo of a woman in a wheelchair entering a lift

Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) was implemented by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) to assist with housing for people with a disability. SDA is split into four design categories that cater to participants under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and includes Improved Liveability (IL), Robust (RO), Fully Accessible (FA) and High Physical Support (HPS).

As SDA Accredited Assessors, we come across many floorplans daily with multiple design categories of SDA in one dwelling. Such as, a bedroom or two for a Fully Accessible/ High Physical Support or a Robust category is proposed on the Ground Floor with an Improved Liveability category bedroom/s on the First Floor. Now the question is, why cannot we have IL room on the first floor when access via steps or stairway is allowed under the IL category.

The following floor plans are shown as an example for clarification where Bedroom 1 is designed for Robust* category on the Ground Floor (the same will apply if this bedroom was HPS or FA) and Bedroom 2, 3 & 4 for Improved Liveability on the first floor:

*SDA Consulting strongly recommends against the provision of Robust SDA within a dwelling that includes stairs due to safety risks for the staff and participants.


14. Internal stairways

NDIS Specialist Disability Accommodation Design Standard Part 14 Internal stairways


In summary, A lift must be provided if there is more than one storey within the proposed house or a villa that includes Fully Accessible, High Physical Support or Robust categories.


Clarifications to having different design categories in the same dwelling

Clause 14 of SDA Design Standards allows an internal stairway for an Improved Liveability category. Suppose any other category is added to that house or villa. In that case, a lift becomes mandatory as all areas of the house need to be accessible for all participants, including Robust participants. This will also apply to High Physical Support and Fully Accessible categories. The non-provision of a passenger lift to the first floor restricts access for such participants in their own houses.


Clause 14 from SDA Design standards-

“It is assumed that access will be available to all internal areas of the Robust, Fully Accessible and High Physical support design category dwellings either by provision of all facilities on the entry level or by means of lifts. It is considered to be reasonable to provide bedrooms for Improved Liveability design category on a level that has access only via steps. In addition to the lifts, any stairways provided in the dwellings are required to comply with the requirements of Clause 14.”


In December 2021, an update to Accredited SDA Assessor as Update 4 was released and has provided Clarification under Item 21 which states-

In the case of Robust, Fully Accessible and High Physical Support, the dwelling can provide an internal stairway as long as lift access is also provided to the level accessed by the stairway. These internal stairways within a dwelling are required to comply with Clause 16.1 and the lift is required to comply with the National Construction Code (NCC).


Question: Can we have a room for a robust, fully accessible or a high physical support on the ground floor and a room/s for improved liveability design category?

Answer: No, where a FA, Ro or a HPS design category room proposed within the same dwelling, access must be provided to all areas of their house that includes the First Floor.


Question: Can you provide a robust, fully accessible, high physical support or an improved liveability design category in a same dwelling on the Ground Floor?

Answer: Yes, as long as access to all areas on the Ground Floor provided, including the largest door clearance of the related design category.  


Question: Can you have multiple design categories on the entry level and a common leisure area on the first floor without a lift?

Answer: No, access must be provided to all areas of the dwelling which would require a provision of a passenger lift in this case.


Question: What if there is one IL and one HPS on the single storey dwelling, do we need 950mm clear door opening for IL category room?

Answer: Yes, you would need 950mm clear door opening to at least the bedroom door of IL category room.


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