It’s common sense to have your business open to everyone, including those who may have difficulties getting around. Accessibility is something that every business should be aware of these days and if your company isn’t accessible, you need to start working on that.
There are regulations and guidelines for ensuring that your spaces are accessible for individuals who use wheelchairs and with limited motion or other disabilities, but you can gain even more insight by talking to the people it might affect. Talk to your customers and find out what they need in order to comfortably visit your business.
Addressing Mobility Issues
Some people may arrive at your place of business in a wheelchair. Others will simply have more difficulty walking and may use braces, crutches or other aids. You’ll also want to accommodate parents with babies in prams. There are a number of ways to make people feel welcome.
Being inclusive will help build a better reputation for your business. However, the most important part of being accessible is making your customers happy and ensuring that they feel heard. You want to be sure they are going to feel comfortable working with your company.
Add Ramps: In many areas, ramps are required in order to make it possible for anyone to enter your place of business. Even if it’s not a requirement, it’s a good idea to make this an option. A ramp is fairly simple to install. If you have limited space, a ramp may be difficult to add, but there are other options you can go for, including a gradual incline and small lifts.
Automatic Doors: Doors that open automatically eliminate the need to push or pull, which can be difficult for someone with poor balance or in a chair. Automatic doors are easy to install and can change the face of your business, making it obvious that you care about all your customers.
Wide Open Aisles: If your place of business has aisles, you should be sure to measure them to see that they are wide enough for anyone in a wheelchair or using a mobility aid. It’s also important to leave extra space at the end of each aisle for a turning radius, as wheelchairs can’t necessarily turn as sharply as a person walking can. Avoid anything extra in the aisles or hallways, which could trip someone with mobility difficulties. Boxes and other similar items can also block a wheelchair from passing by.
Grab Bars: In the washroom, you should have at least one stall that is large enough to accommodate a wheelchair. This stall needs to have grab bars near the toilet to make it easier for anyone with mobility issues to get on and off the toilet. You can also make the sinks more accessible by avoiding cupboards below them so wheelchair users can move up close. Keep soap and towels or hand dryers low enough that everyone can use them, as well.
Install Lifts: Do you have multiple levels in your business? If so, a lift is ideal for helping those with mobility issues move around from floor to floor. A lift should be of a size that ensures everyone can use it without worry, including having the buttons low enough that anyone in a wheelchair can reach them.
Even if you only have a half floor change, you can include a platform lift to help customers get up to the next level. These little platforms are very easy to use, but can make all the difference to someone who has difficulty getting up steps. It also saves space, since you won’t need to build a long ramp to get up to the next level.
Removable Chairs: If people regularly sit at tables in your place of business, be sure to have removable chairs so that those with wheelchairs can sit in like everyone else. This inclusion will help everyone feel included. Lower tables can also make it easier for wheelchairs to pull up and use the space as it was intended. If you do choose this route, be sure to leave the space under the table or desk to allow the wheelchair to fit in.
Offering a comfortable, easy to move space for those with mobility issues will help them feel more comfortable in your business. No matter what your business is based around, you should aim to help your customers to the best of your abilities, no matter how able they are.
Addressing Other Issues
There are other challenges faced by your clients that may not involve mobility. They may have vision problems or have difficulty hearing, and they can all require different things from you. Here are a few tips to help make your business as welcoming as possible.
Clear Signs: Boldly worded signs will be easier to read for those with vision problems and being able to see where they can find things will make them much happier. Increase the lettering on signs and make sure they are high contrast and carefully worded so even those who find English difficult will understand.
Low Music: For those with sensory processing disorder, it can be very difficult to concentrate on anything if the music is too loud. You may decide to skip the music completely, but if you do choose to have it playing in the background, consider reducing the ambient noise where possible and let people know that they can request it be turned down further. This will help anyone who faces difficulties in concentrating with music, as well.
Reduced Lighting: If you have harsh lighting, this can be very difficult for many people to deal with. Consider offering hours when there is limited noise and the lighting is reduced to make it more sensory friendly. Advertising sensory friendly hours will also ensure that everyone who has these issues will come in during that time period.
Assistance Animals: You can make everyone feel welcome by allowing guide or assistance animals into the place of business. It will make it easier for everyone if the animals are permitted to be in the space and you’ll find that customers make a point of coming to your business simply because they know they’ll be treated well.
It’s a good idea to make your business a safe haven for everyone who walks through the doors. Make it comfortable for them to be there and they’ll be more willing to come back and recommend your business to others.
Training Your Staff
It is just as important to train your staff in how to handle customer service as it is to provide accessibility. You can provide a lift, but if your staff don’t treat customers with respect, they won’t be coming back to your business.
This means you need to provide training sessions for your staff. These should include how to handle all customers, as well as those with extra needs. For example:
If someone comes in with a service animal, it’s important that the staff acknowledge the animal and allow it. There should never be a reason to remove someone and their genuine service or assistance animal from your business.
Likewise, everyone should be treated with the same amount of respect. This includes those who may appear to need help. You can ask them if they need help, rather than assuming. Aid required may range from having someone read price tags aloud for the visually impaired, reaching something for a person in a wheelchair, or carrying items to a person’s vehicle. There are many ways to help, so it’s always a good idea to ask if you can be of assistance.
Be sure to listen to your customers, as well. It’s essential that they feel heard. You can do this by asking, incorporating surveys into your shopping experience and on your website, or simply having a suggestion box. The idea here is to get tips from the people who actually need changes. They’ll tell you what they would find more useful and you can then add that to your business.
Making your business accessible to everyone is part of doing good business. You expand your customer base and show people that you are willing to adjust to their needs.
If you’re interested in offering the utmost in accessibility, contact us at Euro Lifts today to learn how we can help you make life easier for your customers.