People of All Abilities (or People with Disabilities)
For business owners, it is a dream that people from all walks of life can experience the best of the service and products they offer. This can be achieved by making small changes that can hugely impact customer service. From having a wheelchair ramp on the entrance and exits of our place to providing top-notch assistance to customers with special needs, this post will give you 5 tips to make your business people-with-disability friendly.
- Make entrance and parking easy and convenient
Studies show that disabled people who drive prioritize choosing businesses that have accessible and available parking. A lot of times, having no access to convenient parking or a ramp at your entrance can be a deal breaker even when your products or services are great.
Consider having designated handicapped parking spaces. Ensure that these spaces are as close to the main entrance as possible. They should also be at least 8 feet wide and have marked access aisles to give disabled drivers room to get out of their cars.
Your business should also take this a step further by ensuring all accessibility standards are met for handicapped parking spaces. You should also monitor the spaces that your customers use and stand up for disabled persons, advocating for respectful and proper use of accessible parking.
- Wheelchair accessible washrooms
Accessible restrooms are extremely important for certain types of businesses such as restaurants. For wheelchair users, it is such an important thing that they know exactly which businesses around them have accommodations for them.
If your business requires your customers to stay for more than half an hour, you need to provide a restroom. If you do not have a wheelchair-accessible restroom, people with disabilities will notice and stay away. Their families and friends will also remember, and if you are running a restaurant, this can take a huge toll on your business. And if your business is in a neighborhood with poor accessibility, having a comfortable, wheelchair-accessible restroom is a major asset.
Ensure that you always keep the washroom clean and dry to avoid accidents by following these bathroom cleaning tips to keep customers coming back.
- Wider pathways with less clutter
Disabled people who have mobility impairments need more space to move. Your business should ensure that the access sidewalks are wide and smooth so they can easily get in and out of your premises. This will attract people who use wheelchairs, canes, and crutches, as well as people with guide dogs or human assistants.
Once at your door, accessibility should continue within your premises. Ensure that any pathways, aisles, or gathering areas are clear to give disabled people enough space to move without crashing into other customers or product displays.
To this end, ensure that your layout and decor are designed with disabled people in mind. Lighting and sound dynamics should also be considered for people with visual or hearing impairments.
- Help your employees understand the challenges that people with disabilities face and how they can be assisted
A little extra effort on this front goes a very long way in helping you create the kind of work environment where your staff can be the best versions of themselves. Consider requiring training for all your employees, whether they have disabilities or not, to help them understand and empathize with the challenges that people with disabilities have to deal with.
Physical accessibility is great, but it is the staff that will carry much of the weight of making disabled customers feel welcomed. You need to ensure that their attitudes and practices exceed expectations because when your staff is helpful and considerate, it even compensates for some of the less-than-stellar bits of physical accessibility that may still need some work.
Sure, it might take a while to change your workplace culture if this was something that was not important to you before. However, when you begin to pay honest attention and teach your staff how to avoid common ableist notions that a lot of disabled customers have to deal with, you are on the right track. Teach your staff not to be neglectful, condescending, or rigid and to help out wherever they can.
It will take a lot of conscious effort on your part. When an untrained staff member notices a disabled customer, because they do not know how to assist them, they will probably ignore them. Or they may go the opposite route and be too sweet, attentive, or condescending. Both these reactions will make your disabled customers feel uncomfortable and insulted, which is a major turn-off.
Teach your staff to set a healthy balance by allowing the customers to set their agenda and explore independently while also being receptive to any requests for help that may come. Your staff should also understand that it is ok not to be too rigid or too reluctant to break from their routines. When a disabled customer makes a reasonable request, instead of saying, “I’m not allowed,” your staff should feel empowered enough to step out of their usual roles a bit to serve the customer.
- Reachable and usable interiors
People who have trouble reaching up to high areas such as people in wheelchairs, the aged, and little people will have a hard time benefiting from your business if you have high shelves, service counters, or inaccessible tables.
It calls for a bit of creativity to make the things you want your customers to use or buy as accessible as possible, for example in the lower levels. Consider keeping the things that you want to be reached conveniently below 4 feet high.
If you have high tables or stools, for example in your restaurant business, you are excluding wheelchair users and shorter people. Similarly, dark moody environments in bars or other similar establishments exclude visually impaired people. And loud music environments are bad for customers who are hard of hearing.
If you absolutely have to have these things, for example, if they are an important aspect of your branding or aesthetics, consider offering a few targeted accommodations for people with disabilities. For example, you can have an additional area with spotlighting or designated quiet areas in nightclubs.
It is important to periodically take the time to think about how accessible your business is, and what you can do to improve the situation. Are there any unnecessary barriers or practices that you may be able to fix to make your business more attractive to disabled people? Consider enlisting the help of someone with a disability. Offer to pay them for their time for their insights. Their help will be worthwhile in the long run.
Finally, you can also go the extra mile by doing things like providing a 360 virtual tour of your place on your website to show potential customers that you are friendly and welcoming to people of all abilities. This will go a long way to not only attract new customers but also to lock in your current customer base, building loyalty.