If you run a bricks and mortar business or service, here are some things to check on that will make a difference in the life of someone who struggles to get in, get out and get doing. Some of these ideas are pretty easy to accomplish, others take time, money and thought.
- If your building is accessible by an automatic door, make sure the button to open the door is operational.
- The doors to handicapped washrooms are often very heavy. Consider putting in some sort of push button system to open them.
- Are you putting in stairs to access a parking lot? A ramp is so much more versatile and accessible for everyone. Watch for a future post, where I'll share the success (or failure) of my attempt to advocate for a ramp at a nearby mall!
- Are you opening a new office in an existing space? The requirements of your population may not adequately be covered by existing legislation. Make some time to talk with the associations and societies that service various groups. Read some blogs to find out what needs are being expressed.
- Keep your check-out counter clear of clutter, so that a purse/wallet could be opened. I've heard moms, seniors and mobility-challenged people all express their frustration at the lack of space at the cashier's desk. This also applies to the shelf at the bank machine, as well as the envelope holder.
- Many businesses have mats at the front door. These often present tripping hazards because they are curled up or in bad shape. They should be regularly checked throughout the day.
- Are you putting in a couch or chairs for your customers or clients? Ensure that the seat cushions are firm and not so low to the floor that you practically need a hoist to get up.
- Teach and empower your employees to err on the side of kindness and consideration. If someone asks for help opening a water bottle, or carrying an item to the car, assume that she is asking because it is difficult for her to do. It's hard enough asking for help on a continual basis, without then having to explain oneself, over and over again.
- Comment cards can provide insight into the needs of your customers and clients, provided that you read them. Feedback can help hone/define/improve your services and accessibility. Unfortunately, this one fell on deaf ears - pun intended. But, I like to think that this one made a difference.
The other thing to keep in mind is that accessibility is not only for someone who is disabled or diffabled. Parents minding their children, someone who may be in a situation that is acute-temporary or seniors, many of whom need a little extra time and help, would all benefit from these modifications.
There's an African proverb that states that "it takes a village to raise a child." I also think that it takes a village to improve the lot for all of us who live in that village. We may end up being the person who benefits. I recall someone I know who vociferously complained about handicapped parking...until he was suddenly thrust into the position of requiring it.
You'll never know when things can change and you or a family member might be requiring services that were previously not in your vocabulary.