Accessibility Tip of the Week

It just makes scents.

  • Summary: Be thoughtful about fragrance and chemical use and placement.
  • Who it helps: People who are sensitive to fragrances and chemicals.
  • Additional benefits: Members of your audience that find scents and chemicals irritating.

Lotions, perfumes, air fresheners. We use them to hide unpleasant odors in bathrooms, hallways or on our bodies. The unpleasant odors, however, are just unpleasant. The fragrances and chemicals we use to mask them can cause asthma attacks, migraines, gastrointestinal issues and other physical reactions . The severity of the reaction and the chemicals or smells that cause it can vary by individuals. A 2009 study found 30% of people surveyed found fragrances irritating.

What can I do?

Here are some steps you can take to help your members and customers who struggle with fragrances and chemicals:

  • Remove air fresheners, essential oils, potpourri and other environmental scents from public areas, particularly those which people must use or that promote your organization. Examples include service counters, dressing rooms, restrooms, and entrances.
  • Place scented products like candles, soaps, and perfume in a separate section, away from the main areas.
  • Ensure all areas are clean and have good ventilation.
  • When hosting events, set aside seats away from others and mark them a fragrance free section.
  • When holding a meeting in a smaller room, ask ahead of time if anyone is sensitive to scents and perfume. If someone has a sensitivity, ask all of your other attendees to refrain from wearing perfume, cologne, scented lotions, and other scented products.

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