Almost every retail storefront is required to meet certain accessibility standards before opening its doors. These standards are designed to make all businesses convenient for individuals with certain disabilities. However, these regulations differ by state, municipality, and type of establishment; meaning that some places are more disability-friendly than others.
It’s about more than just putting up a few signs.
Perhaps you want to make an effort to welcome anyone who experiences these types of challenges on a daily basis. If so, here are some tips for configuring your business to cater to disabled customers:
People With Physical Disabilities
- Install automatic doors at your front entrance, or at least a mechanism which allows the door to open by pressing a button.
- Structure your merchandise so that it is displayed in aisles that are wide and easy to navigate. Remove all excess clutter and position freestanding displays in more open areas.
- If you display goods inside cabinets (like frozen foods, for example), make sure that the doors to these cabinets stay open on their own without having to be held open by customers.
- Use high-quality floor mats for their intended functions. For example, a thicker outdoor or anti-fatigue mat may not be suitable for use in an interior entry area or near a drink dispenser.
- Have motorized carts available for people who have trouble getting around.
- Make sure your changing rooms are wheelchair-accessible and roomy enough for people with wheelchairs.
- Create at least one checkout counter or lane that is wheelchair-friendly by lowering counters and/or widening aisles.
This man wants to spend money. But if your shop isn’t disability-friendly, he’ll go someplace that is.
People With Vision Problems
- Ensure that all customer areas are properly illuminated, and that all lights are in good working order.
- Incorporate different colors and styles of flooring to differentiate various areas of your store. They tend to be more easily navigable by people with impaired vision.
- Employ brightly-colored signs for store sections and exits. Whenever possible, use large fonts for these signs as well.
- At checkout counters, utilize credit card swipe machines that have tactile buttons instead of those with “touch screens” where a stylus is needed. Or have at least one checkout line which has machines with tactile buttons – and make sure the area is clearly visible to anyone with impaired vision.
- Compile one or more large-print or Braille directories for your store which can be used by vision-impaired individuals to make their way through your store and find what they need.
It’s a State of Mind
But the most important aspect of being a disability-friendly business is your attitude. In essence, this means treating disabled customers with the same respect that you would afford able-bodied individuals. That means looking them in the eye and talking to them directly instead of trying to communicate through their companion. It’s perfectly okay to offer your assistance to a disabled person; but if he or she refuses, then don’t press the issue. Finally, exercise patience with disabled customers who may take more time to move around your store, try on clothing, or check out.
Respect is so simple, but it goes a long way.
If you can create an accessible atmosphere for disabled people at your business, you’ll get more than just respect, gratitude, and the satisfaction of helping your fellow man. You’re likely to garner a very favorable reputation among the tightly-knit disability community, which can lead to increased revenues and more loyal customers. So why not take the time to make the necessary alterations to your business today? Your disabled neighbors will thank you.
Written by Chris Martin