Many businesses know there are ADA laws and pretend like they don’t know there are ADA laws, and the cities and government allow them to get away with it. For example, a pandemic-long vacancy of restaurants across the street from Big Role headquarters was bought by a local chef, turning the whole block into four new eateries. You’d better believe we were gazing through binoculars watching the progress with salivating taste buds. First things first, the largest of the four which is a sports bar and restaurant, was getting a new entrance. They demolished the old stoop and began pouring concrete. We were thrilled to see them changing it out. Until…they built steps and didn’t even bother with so much as a handrail. Thinking we’d save the day, we messaged their Instagram account we’d been following. A kind note saying that we’re anticipating their opening and by the way, that one open side of the stoop has plenty of room to pour a concrete ramp while you’re still under construction. There was no reply, but a Read notification. No ramp was built. The chef seems pretty young and abled in publicity photos, but he must have a friend, family member, or grandparents that will be proudly coming to see his new venture, who would appreciate an easier way to get in. The steps up to the burger stand next door didn’t get a ramp, either. We’ve given up on the other two upcoming attached venues. Sorry to say, we won’t be celebrating with Big Role peeps at any of his locations, as some of us are not welcomed unless they sit on the patio with the dogs and don’t want to go inside to wash up. The ramp would be a simple fix and dirt cheap. It would also help when rolling in deliveries, someone with a baby stroller, walker, drunk patrons, and the chef might actually need it himself some day.
While that was structural, let’s say your place of business has wide doors, a flat entrance, and accessible bathrooms. How are you gonna help a blind woman without helping her? Add a rug near the doors to find her way out as well as leading to the bathroom. Runners or tactile pieces along the aisles – these are not tall enough to trip someone, and they can go on the far edges of the aisles to run a cane along. If you think about the yellow bumpy panels where you cross streets in major cities, those aren’t going to trip anyone. They’re tactile and can also slow down wheelchairs from rolling into the streets. Something so simple as rubber carpet dividers are good enough. These things are not hard or expensive to tweak. If you’ve ever had a blind dog with cataracts or arthritis, think of what you did for her. Added a runway throughout the house with yoga mats? Yep, blind humans also will know how to navigate without walking into a display of canned corn. Also, remove displays like that. Even fully sighted customers are nervous to take something in fear of the entire pyramid collapsing. Don’t be timid on speaking up if you’ve rearranged (please don’t) the store. If you see your regular blind chick entering with her grocery list, tell her you moved the coffee to aisle 7. It takes her long enough to find sh*t. Don’t make it harder. If you want rockstar status, add Braille or audio to your shelf labels. One last thought for these folks, not everyone wants to rock out to Huey Lewis and the News. Tone it down. We need to hear shopping carts, feet, and other things that move around in a place of business, while focusing on not accidentally picking up gluten-free of anything.
Wait, I don’t think he can hear you. That’s right, he’s deaf. A note pad on the end of each aisle and register is pretty convenient so that you’re not carrying on a convo with someone who doesn’t read lips. Please educate employees in training that d/deaf people exist. If an employee is coming through with a heavy reams of printer paper and an individual who is d/deaf is browsing at a magnificent piece of artwork on the wall, yelling, ‘watch out, coming thru!’ is not going to be effective.
A handful of other tips:
Grocery carts, hand trucks, and supply carts in disarray in a walking path. That includes YOU, FedEx guy thumbing your phone.
Slick floors – for anyone, but especially those who use a walker or crutches.
Wet floor signs are the worst when you’re blind. You don’t see them, then it scares the hell out of you when it CLAPS and hits the floor. Just dry it with a towel.
Scooters. Even though they come from irresponsible companies that will appear in an entirely other post that may or may not be heated, if they are scattered about in front of your business, please be kind and clear them. In a great world, those things would be outlawed. They effect blind, wheelchair users, baby carriages, elderly, walkers, bad hips, cerebral palsy, and the list goes on.
Now, we didn’t list the actual ADA laws, so it’s a good idea to review them. You can get sued for certain discrimination and it’s happening more and more these days. We’re just giving a few hints on how to make your customers return. If you’ve ever heard your co-workers say, ‘we never have people with disabilities in here’, now you know why. Open your doors to all, and watch the diversity grow.
If you are a person with a physical or sensory disability, drop your thoughts in the comments. If you’re a business owner with questions or solutions you’ve come up with, we’d love to hear about that, too.