American consumers with disabilities represent 200 billion dollars in discretionary spending and unless your business is accessible, you are missing these potential customers. Disabilities vary between individuals and the best way to engage these individuals differs based on your business type and size, but there are many simple steps you can take today to improve your accessibility.
Five quick steps to better engage customers with disabilities are below:
- If your business has a service or checkout counter, keep a pad and pencil at it to allow employees to easily talk with customers who are deaf. Talk with your employees about why the notepad is there so they are prepared to use it. Similarly, tell employees to listen to electronic sounding calls, rather than hanging up automatically. While these may be automated messages, they may also be someone using assistive technology to call your business.
- If you have a building where customers enter, walk through your business space with wheelchairs and walkers in mind. If you have a measuring tape, set it to 36” and make sure you have clear, 3-foot wide paths from the outside parking to items for sale, the checkout counter, tables, and restrooms. Move any items you can to open these paths up. If you are in an older building with small corridors and no ramp, provide a phone number on a sign at the door to call for assistance and provide an accessible website.
- Check your website for accessibility. While web accessibility is complex, you can get a good idea how successful your site is at engaging customers with disabilities in less than 10 minutes. Install the WAVE toolbar in Chrome. Once installed, open your business web page and click on the W in a circle in the top right of your browser.
This will display a report to the left of your page.
Do you have any Errors or Contrast Errors? If you do, talk with your website provider about fixing them. If you are purchasing a web site from someone, let them know you care about accessibility and run this check before you accept the site.
- Review your policies and procedures to ensure they support people with disabilities. Allow service dogs to enter. Allow caretakers to assist individuals with activities such as dressing in fitting rooms. Make sure accessible entrances are open during business hours. Finally, consider a policy that encourages employees to ask everyone who enters if they need assistance. Making this a standard business practice opens a conversation with all your customers and avoids singling out individuals with visible disabilities.
- Remove chemical fragrances such as scented candles, perfumes, potpourri, and air fresheners from spaces your customers need to go such as the checkout or service counter, fitting rooms, and bathrooms. Individuals with chemical sensitivity will not be able to use your business and studies show the number of consumers who have this is rapidly rising.
If you are interested in learning more about accessibility in small businesses, check out Accessible Community’s Small Business Accessibility Resource Guide.
If you would like an evaluation of your business and website and help improving your accessibility, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Accessible Community is a 501c3 charity dedicated to helping small businesses and community organizations better support people with disabilities. Our services are free to businesses with fewer than 10 full time employees.