Disability-Friendly is Friendly to Everyone
When business owners hear the word "accessibility", their minds often automatically jump to costly changes to their place of business: installing ramps and electric doors, putting in elevators, and modifying bathrooms. However, those accommodations don't address everything, and they can be very expensive. Until you can afford them (and even after you've made them!), ask yourself these questions: Are there other ways I can make my store a more friendly place for people with disabilities?
How about for people with low vision, who may have trouble reading signs? Or for people that have hearing impairments?
Think about it right now: How disability-friendly is your store?
Small Steps Make a Big Difference
If you don't know, that's okay. The good news is that there are many small steps that you and your staff can take to make your store more disability-friendly that will make your store a friendlier place for everyone who comes in it.
- Have your check-out employees ask all customers, "Did you get everything you were looking for today?" This is the easiest way to make your store more disability-friendly. It gives people the opportunity to say what it was that they couldn't get, without having to disclose that it was because the print on the signs was too small to read or because it was on a shelf too high for them to reach from their wheelchair, (or whatever it was about their disability that kept them from getting the product they wanted), unless they want to. Someone can then assist them to get the product.
- Make your floor staff easy to find It's nice to be able to easily find assistance when you want it.
- Keep your navigation space as clear as possible People using wheelchairs and scooters may have difficulty getting around areas in which there isn't a clear navigation space between many displays.
- In snowy areas, keep outdoor steps as free of ice and snow as possible This may mean shovelling your steps several times a day, but all of your customers will appreciate your concern for their safety.
- Give new employees a disability sensitivity tip sheet Disability sensitivity refers to best practices for interacting with people with disabilities, such as "Don't shout at deaf people" and "Don't touch people without asking them first." Many of these sheets are available on the internet. You may want to post one of these sheets in a place like the employee break room as well.
Good Customer Service Really Does Go a Long Way!
The beauty of making your business more disability-friendly, whether it's modifying your building, incorporating the above tips, or both, is that it doesn't just benefit your customers with disabilities. All of your customers can benefit from a business space where the staff are attentive and helpful, the store is easy to navigate, and where outdoor stairs are kept in safe condition in winter weather. As well, people in the disabilities field, who are more likely to notice these things, are more likely to choose your establishment over one that hasn't given any thought to these things.