In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law. It is still one of the most comprehensive civil rights laws. It was designed to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities. In part, thanks to this law, more and more people with disabilities are entering the workforce. Good businesses should be working to improve accessibility for both staff and customers with disabilities. Below are some simple steps that you can take to make your business more accessible.
17 Simple Ways to Improve Accessibility to Your Business
Want your business to thrive? Make it easily accessible for everyone.
1. Think about the entrances to your building.
Ideally, the main entrance should be wheelchair accessible. However, if this isn’t possible, make sure that you:
- have an alternative accessible entrance
- post clear signage from the main entrance
This can help people find the way they can get in. On your website, add some information about accessibility, such as parking, access, services or any areas that cannot be reached.
2. You should have a lowered accessible counter for disabled customers to use.
Make sure that this is clear at all times. Don’t use it as a space to store or display any items. You wouldn’t do this on a normal counter, so don’t do it on the access counter either.
3. Use high visibility materials.
If there are corners, steps or sharp edges around your site, make sure that you mark these clearly with high visibility materials. Use a contrasting color when possible. This is so that they can be seen more easily.
4. Improve accessibility for wheelchair users.
If your business has any tables or bar seating, you should make sure that you are also providing seating that is accessible to wheelchair users. Make sure that your tables have:
- enough clearance for a person in a chair to sit at it comfortably
- room to navigate around the tables.
The same goes for desks for your staff; they need room to get a wheelchair in and out as well.
5. Consider all walkways around your business.
Make sure that any walkways around your business and accessible parking aisle are clear of clutter. Also, keep your premises well lit. Make sure to trim back any obstructions in the path for those using a wheelchair, such as:
This is so that there are no low hanging hazards, especially for those with limited vision.
6. Help people to navigate your business better with proper signage.
- raised lettering
- a background and foreground that contrasts
Any signs, such as those for the restrooms or any meeting rooms, should have the proper signage.
7. Think about the doors.
A heavy door will be very difficult for the elderly or someone in a chair or on a mobility aid to open. Choose lighter options and adjust closures so that the door needs less force to be opened.
8. Take a look at your bathrooms.
No movable objects, such as a wastebasket, should be allowed to obstruct access routes or fill the empty spaces around doors. You should also leave an area clear around the sink and the toilet. Leaving these spaces clear means that wheelchair users have space to turn and navigate.
9. Consider all the changes that can be made, if possible.
If it is impossible to offer disabled access to your business, such as having premises that are unable to be converted, see if there is another way that you can offer your goods or services. For example,
- build a strong website for shopping
- offer home delivery
- consider offering services like home visits or a personal shopper
All of these can be helpful considerations.
Not allowing them in can restrict the options of disabled people to come in. In any case, this makes your business look bad and doesn’t encourage customer loyalty.
11. Make your marketing materials accessible too.
Make sure your website works with screen readers and use a subtitle service to add captions to any videos that you produce. Subtitles can also be used to create video content for international markets.
12. Always consider the language used.
If you are adding signage around your business to point to accessible entrances or other spaces, think carefully about the language that you are using. Avoid terms like ‘handicapped’, which can be considered offensive by some people with disabilities. Instead, use the word ‘accessible’. Do your research before planning signs to make sure that you aren’t going to accidentally cause offense or upset.
Most importantly, make sure that any language you use about those with disabilities shows them as a person. This means referring to a person as ‘an individual with a disability’, rather than a ‘disabled person’. People ‘use’ a wheelchair and are not ‘confined’ to one. People are blind, and don’t suffer from blindness.
Framing your language this way is a lot more inclusive.
13. Consider your evacuation plan.
How would a person with disabilities be evacuated from the building in an emergency? Make sure you have a plan for this built into your emergency evacuation plan. Train your employees on how to get everyone out of the building safely, including those with disabilities.
14. Don’t forget their companion or carer.
If someone with a disability using your business also has a companion or carer, make sure that you are directing your comments and conversation to the customer, not just the carer. This is done unless they tell you otherwise. Talking over someone is rude and won’t encourage the customer to return.
15. Don’t overcomplicate any written information.
Instead, structure any content in a logical order, write in plain English and avoid any long, complicated sentences.
16. Improve accessibility through your phone services.
People who are deaf often use telecommunications relay services (TRS) to make their phone calls. Make sure your phone lines accept calls made through services like this and train your staff to treat these calls the same as any other.
17. Use appropriate reading material.
Any material that you expect to be read, such as a menu shared online, should an alternative way to be accessed. This can be done by adding some assistive technology like a screen reader. If they need assistance in person, be prepared to read things like:
This is for customers who have limited vision or are blind.
When you improve accessibility to your business, you will open yourself up to a wider variety of possible staff and customers. You will be operating in a much more appropriate way, without discriminating against anyone. Accessibility can boost your business reputation too, helping you to win and keep customers.
Have you been considering those with disabilities appropriately? If not, has this been helpful for you?
AUTHOR LaTia Longuemire
My name is LaTia Longuemire. I enjoy writing, singing, and cooking in my spare time. My passion is helping others. At this stage in my lifetime, I'm primarily focused on my children. They are everything that keeps my world spinning.