Think about your favorite local business. Does it accommodate for individuals with special needs? How accessible is your favorite restaurant, coffee shop, or specialty shop? If you don’t rely on a wheelchair or other devices to assist you with mobility, there’s a good chance you haven’t been paying attention.
Up until 1990, there weren’t any solid laws protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities. In 1990, The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted. The ADA is a “civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.”
While it’s advantageous for businesses to becoming ADA compliant, some have taken longer to accommodate. Here are ways that businesses are becoming more accessible to everyone:
Making Buildings Accessible
When a business opens in a new building, it is most likely more accommodating and accessible than older buildings. Business owners that operate out of an older building have minimum requirements they must meet. For example, there should be at least one accessible route that complies with ADA rules from a parking lot to an accessible entrance.
There should be a cut out in the curb and an entrance free from steps. ADA compliant bathrooms should be available, too. All signs, displays, and important material targeted at clientele and customers should be visible to a seated individual. Additionally, signs for individuals with visual impairments should also be present.
If you notice that a business in your community isn’t ADA compliant, offer suggestions to the business owner or talk with a city official. Some older buildings have exceptions, but they must have the minimal.
For years, individuals with special needs have encountered stereotypes that made many feel like outcasts or “less human.” While these negative and inaccurate views of individuals with disabilities are less prevalent, they are still present today.
Business owners have a responsibility to encourage, teach, and train every employee to be welcoming to everyone, regardless of his or her ability. Failing to accommodate or treat others appropriately will not only give a business a bad reputation, but may lead to failure as a company. If you notice that an employee is being unfair or slanderous to you or an individual with a disability. Don’t be silent. Be an advocate and speak up.
Successful, smart, and inclusive businesses stay on top of current issues and welcome feedback from all of their customers. They do their best to accommodate to everyone and value the diversity of their clientele. Even online businesses should consider their accessibility.
Business owners who are accommodating to individuals with special needs are more likely to be involved in the community, to be respected in their community, and have a loyal and satisfied customer base.
While businesses of all types have come a long way in making their services and products ADA compliant, there are always improvements to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity.