“Living with a disability is nothing compared to living with exclusion.” – Stella Young
Over 4 million people in Australia have some form of disability. That’s 1 in 5 people. Making your business accessible doesn’t just cover how people can physically access your business. It means making sure that your services; facilities and information are also accessible.
Purple Tuesday, the UK’s first ever accessible shopping day, took place on Tuesday 13th November 2018. The aim of Purple Tuesday is to make customer-facing businesses more aware of opportunities and challenges when it comes to accessibility and inspire them to make changes to improve the disabled customer experience over the long term.
Their initial target was to get 50 companies to each make a new long-term commitment to improving the experience of disabled shoppers. But by the time the day itself came around, that figure had reached 700.
It’s important to be inclusive of all people and to improve accessibility to ensure this is possible.
Here’s how you can make your business more accessible to people with a disability:
Consider all disabilities
Even getting into a shop can be impossible for wheelchair users. Once inside, it is also common for shops not to have accessible changing rooms. Lowered pay points and thinking about wheelchair users would go a long way. However, only 4.4% of people with a disability in Australia use a wheelchair. Accessibility can mean more than ramps and wheelchair access. Many disabilities are invisible, so it’s important to consider them all.
1 in 3 people with disability report that their customer needs are often unmet (AHRC, 2017). This would change if more measures were put in place in stores to allow for accessibility. Providing hearing loops and training staff to speak clearly would help. Braille signs and clothing sizes and prices in large print would also benefit visually impaired shoppers.
Add more seats
Shopping can be exhausting, however if you have a chronic illness such as ME or are in pain with arthritis, this goes far beyond just sore feet. Extra seating in shops and change rooms would make your business more accessible.
Ensure there’s an accessible bathroom
If you do not have an accessible toilet make sure all staff know the location of the nearest accessible toilet and, if necessary, get approval for your customers to use it.
Think about the noise and lighting
If you have a condition such as autism, fluorescent lighting and loud music can be difficult to manage, in addition to crowds. Shops could create quiet zones and changing areas. Softening lights would also help people with epilepsy and migraines.
Organise sensitivity training for your staff
Education is the best way to bring about positive change, adjusting attitudes and breaking down barriers for people with disabilities. Providing your staff with training on topics such as how to assist those with mobility devices, interact with service animals, etc, will ensure that everyone is informed on how to accommodate and include all people.
Accommodating customers with disability extends beyond how team members behave with customers. There are many small features that can be used to assist in delivering and reminding staff of their responsibility to customers with disability, such as:
- Braille menus for a restaurant.
- Website describing accessibility features of stores.
- Signs welcoming assistance animals.
- Space for assistance animal at the table.
- Communication picture boards showing the main products or services.
- A pen and paper or iPad for typing messages if someone is deaf (and you don’t know AUSLAN).
Shopping is an integral part of life and is more than just buying goods and services, it’s about getting out and about and connecting with our communities. Help the 4 million people in Australia by making your business more accessible today.
Find out if your business is accessible with a quick self-assessment
The quick self-assessment is a 10 question assessment for a glimpse into your organisations access and inclusion for people with disability, and to gain an understanding of what the Access and Inclusion Index is about. No information that identifies an organisation is collected as part of the Quick Self-Assessment.
A website to help find wheelchair accessible places
You can find, mark and add accessible and less accessible public places on a virtual map. You can also upload images and add specific information about places with your phone or tablet.
Australian Human Rights Commission. (2017), ‘Missing out: The business case for customer diversity’
Nswbusinesschamber.com.au. (2018). Making Your Business Accessible. [online] Available at: https://www.nswbusinesschamber.com.au/getattachment/Issues/Issues/Workforce-Skills/Employ-Outside-the-Box-the-benefits-of-diversifyi/Making-your-business-accessible-(1).pdf.aspx