Question: What do you do if you are disabled, and you cannot gain entry into a retail store, restaurant, hotel, or other public building? How about if, once you get inside, you find that you cannot take full advantage of services offered?
Answer: You don’t patronize these businesses. You spend a lot of time at home, and your family and friends visit with you there.
I understand the reluctance of business owners to funnel money into handicapped accessible accommodations, especially considering the current state of the economy. But in the long run, it can enhance your business and attract a large group of new customers. Short-term pain for long-term gain.
For business owners, one of the best ways to find out exactly how disability-friendly your establishment is would be to invite several people with varying degrees of disability to visit. At least one should be confined to a wheelchair.
Have them navigate the parking situation, entrances, and bathrooms. Observe their efforts and ask them for feedback. Find out if yours is a business they would patronize and reward with positive word-of-mouth. If not, ask for specifics. You may find that only minor changes are necessary.
Be honest with people who phone ahead to inquire about accessibility. Understand what it means to be “wheelchair accessible.”
Remember, disabled people are just like other people... they don't live in a vacuum. They have a circle of friends and acquaintances who like to socialize with them. The goodwill you build from being disabled-friendly is a form of advertising.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2006), there are 51.2 million people in the United States who have some level of disability. They represent 18 percent of the population. There are 32.5 million people with a severe disability. They represent 12 percent of the population. 2.7 million people age 15 and older use a wheelchair and 9.1 million use an ambulatory aid such as a cane, crutches or walker.
Disabled people like to get out and about as much as anyone. They (we) have friends and family who are also affected by our inability to participate. Business owners need to understand that we, as a group, are customers... with money to spend.
It’s just good business to welcome us in.
* Americans With Disabilities Act - Business Connection
* US Census Bureau - Newsroom
Published On: August 20, 2008