Wikipedia defines accessibility as:
“Accessibility in the sense considered here refers to the design of products, devices, services, vehicles, or environments so as to be usable by people with disabilities. The concept of accessible design and practice of accessible development ensures both “direct access” (i.e. unassisted) and “indirect access” meaning compatibility with a person’s assistive technology (for example, computer screen readers).
Accessibility can be viewed as the “ability to access” and benefit from some system or entity. The concept focuses on enabling access for people with disabilities, or enabling access through the use of assistive technology; however, research and development in accessibility brings benefits to everyone.
Accessibility is strongly related to universal design which is the process of creating products that are usable by people with the widest possible range of abilities, operating within the widest possible range of situations. This is about making things accessible to all people (whether they have a disability or not).”
The Accessible Canada Act (ACA) was passed in 2019 with the purpose of identifying, removing and preventing barriers to accessibility, especially for individuals with disabilities, in Canada on or before January 1, 2040.
ACA aims to ensure that accessibility standards are being met in the following areas:
Before we delve into how to make your establishment more accessible to people with disabilities, let’s first take a look at the facts and figures related to disability in Canada. This will give you a clearer idea on the number of individuals who can greatly benefit when you make your business more accessible to people of all abilities.
Some individuals are affected by more than one kind of disability. (Source: Statistics Canada)
(Source: Statistics Canada)
For persons with disabilities aged 65 and up, 55.3% of men and 69.6% of women use at least one type of assistive device in their home. (Source: Statistics Canada)
The most commonly modified space features that were made available were accessible classrooms (50.5%), versus 25% for adaptable washrooms and 21.8% for accessible buildings. (Source: Statistics Canada)
However, more than one in 10 persons with disabilities said there were unmet needs in terms of assistive devices, the most common of which were walk-in bath or shower (29%) and bathroom aids (20.5%). (Source: Statistics Canada)
The Government of Ontario identified five barriers to accessibility for people with disabilities:
Anyone with disabilities or none require products and services, and these should be easy to get, with as few barriers as possible. Intentionally designing and modifying your work and business space to be accessible and friendly to everyone, regardless of abilities, means helping people get more out of life.
Whether accessibility standards are required by law or not, adapting your space for everyone’s needs creates a sense of caring, respect and goodwill within your community.
Are you worried about the monetary investments and possible downtime needed to modify your business space? The good news is, many of these aids and accessibility features are affordable and can be installed within a couple of hours.
In addition, many individuals, whether with disabilities or none, want to support establishments that are perceived to be more inclusive and socially-responsible- and this in turn can lead to more success for your business. According to a survey in the UK, 3 out of 4 persons with disabilities have said that they have left a shop or establishment due to accessibility issues.
Imagine what a lifetime of loyalty built on trust and meeting accessibility needs can bring to your business!
Ready to convert your space? We share with you some best practices to make your business space more accessible and welcoming to everyone.
The most obvious barriers that come to mind are the architectural / physical ones. However, with the different types of disabilities (seeing, dexterity, flexibility, mobility, developmental, pain-related, hearing, learning, memory, and mental health), there may be extra steps you need to take to ensure that everyone feels welcome inside your establishment.
Are your processes clear and easy to understand? Are there ways to know your pricing, apart from reading off a sign or list?
Is there anyone available to assist, in case anyone needs help? Are you being sensitive to all kinds of individuals?
We love Sephora’s idea with their color-coded shopping baskets. Shoppers can pick between one of two basket colors- with red baskets indicating, “I would like to be assisted”, and black means, “I would like to shop on my own”.
Though this looks quite simple and many interpret it as a way to differentiate introverts from extroverts, it goes beyond that — individuals who are struggling with anxiety or other mental health problems and would like to avoid interacting with other people can easily communicate their preference in a fun and non-judgemental way. On the other hand, those who need more assistance can get it, without the need to fight for the salesperson’s attention.
2. Train your employees on how to interact with people of all abilities
The number one barrier to accessibility is attitudinal- the actions, behaviors and perceptions that make people with disabilities feel directly or indirectly discriminated against. When people with disabilities enter a public space, how they are treated there may make a bigger impact compared to the actual physical accessibility modifications you have.
We believe that people are naturally kind and many don’t mean to deliberately discriminate against others- Most of the time, the problem may simply lie on the lack of employee training.
A well-meaning employee might think that talking more loudly and slowly will help a customer with hearing impairment understand him more- but the engagement might be interpreted negatively by the customer with the disability, as he does not want to be treated ‘differently’ or ‘shouted at’.
The National League for Nursing recommends the following in communicating with all persons with disabilities:
(Check out the National League of Nursing’s comprehensive list of recommendations in communicating with persons with different kinds of disabilities)
Training one of your employees in sign language or Braille communicates even further that everyone will get the wonderful service that they deserve in your establishment.
For a truly accessible and inclusive environment, train your employees on how to properly interact and serve persons of all ages and abilities.
3. Create a good first impression: accessible parking and entrance.
Depending on the size of your business, have at least one parking space reserved for persons with disabilities (preferably the one nearest your entrance, or one with bigger space for someone with a mobility device such as a wheelchair). In case parking slots are limited, you can allow persons without disabilities to use them, but communicate clearly that those with disabilities will get priority parking.
With the use of your website or social media channels, you can encourage persons with disabilities to call ahead to reserve for parking, to make it more convenient for them.
Most persons with disabilities will end up turning away, if your doorway is not accessible, such as if the entryway is too narrow or there are steps leading up to your front door.
Here are ways on how to make your entrance accessible:
4. Ensure there is enough space for everyone to move around. Remove obstructions.
Inside your establishment, you should have enough space for individuals with mobility devices or vision impairment to comfortably move around. One easy way to do this is to remove any clutter or obstructions that might be standing on the way, such as displays in the middle of the aisle, tables and furniture that are obstructing the smooth flow of traffic, or anything else that may be a tripping / accident hazard.
In case space is limited, you can put directional signages, so that people move in one direction. Avoid sharp edges or cover them with foam or seal strips to avoid possible injury to your customers.
For reference on wheelchair turn radiuses, please check below:
5. Create an accessible washroom.
In many establishments, washrooms are placed at the end of a narrow corridor that is not accessible to people with mobility challenges.
The same rules for the main entrance apply to the restroom entrance:
Grab bars are a necessity for an accessible restroom. In a standard toilet stall, 36-inch or 42-inch grab bars must be installed on both sides of the stall side wall, and another one on the back wall.
The grab bars should be placed parallel to the floor and should be between 33 to 36 inches from the ground.
Ideally, the door to the toilet stall should swing out, instead of in, to provide more space for the user.
If possible, have a separate restroom for individuals with disabilities and apart from grab bars, a low sink and an emergency call button are also well-appreciated additions to an accessible washroom.
6. Make sure that price lists and menus can be read and understood by everyone.
For signages that are placed around your establishment, make them easy to read to accommodate individuals with vision impairment.
Consider these tips:
7. Offer flexibility in ordering and payment methods.
Generally, almost all of your customers will need to go to your reception area, checkout or cashier counter, to place their orders and to pay. This is where communication takes place, and making this area especially welcoming, flexible and adaptable should be one of your priorities for your establishment.
Here are some options to make your point-of-sale counter friendlier and more adaptable:
If you have an employee who knows sign language, the point-of-sale counter is the best place to assign him / her, to make everyone feel more welcome.
8. Mix up the furniture.
Provide a variety of tables and chairs of different heights to accommodate people of different abilities. Also make sure that chairs are easy to move around, in case you need to create space for wheelchair users.
9. Have good lighting.
Ambient lighting may be good in setting a romantic and fancy mood- However, this type of lighting may not be ideal for those with vision impairments and mobility problems. Dim light will also make communication via sign language and looking at signages and visuals more difficult.
To calculate how much light a space needs, check out this page.
10. Adjust the noise level.
Background music is part of the customer experience in your establishment- It can even help build brand identity and make your business more memorable to others.
However, to make sure that your background music will not hinder communication, especially for those with hearing problems, the recommended volume level is between -18dBs and -20dBs lower than the main dialogue.
Keep in mind that loud music can also cause great distress to those dealing with certain anxiety disorders.
In case you have a TV screen or monitor in your establishment, use closed captioning so you can keep the volume level down, and also for the benefit of individuals with hearing impairment.
Bonus tip: Put up signages and let people know that your establishment is a safe and accessible space for all!
You have put a lot of heart and effort to turn your space into an accessible and inclusive environment. Now, it’s time to let people know that your business is accommodating to everyone, regardless of ability.
Put up signages to guide people to your accessible entrance, priority parking, adaptable restroom, accessible service counters, etc. You may also put visuals on the outside of the store, to communicate about the accessibility features that you have in place.
Let people know about your accessibility solutions via your social media pages, to keep your establishment top of mind for individuals with disabilities or people who have family members and loved ones with disabilities.
Addressing accessibility needs builds trust and credibility with your customers and community organically. Be known as a brand who cares- No amount of creative marketing equals the goodwill that this can bring into your business.
Accessibility matters to everyone- not just to persons with disabilities. Be part of the solution and let’s create a more inclusive community!
Home2stay can help you make your business space safer and more accessible. Set up a consultation schedule with us and let’s build a friendlier and more inclusive community!