Disability is not inability. For this reason, we should do all necessary measures to accommodate persons living with disabilities in society and empower them to be more independent. One way to do this is to make premises, including workplaces and stores, easily accessible to them. Stores, in particular, have become a vital part of an individual’s life. For most of us, walking into a store get supplies, groceries, etc. It can be as casual as it gets; however, it is not easy for those living with certain impairments such as visual and physical impairments. Some of the measures to make stores handicap-friendly include:
1. Keeping walkways, driveways and parking accessible
Most establishments have allotted a specific area in the parking lot for persons living with a disability. While the store may not own the parking lot, it is a facility used by customers. Thus the stores in the establishment must make sure these spaces are friendly and convenient to all their customers and employees. This can be done by keeping walkways and parking aisles clear and well-lit. Any vegetation, including flower arrangements and bushes, should be clipped to avoid obstruction of paths and lighting hanging at safe levels to avoid hazards from low-hanging items for visually impaired persons.
2. Make the entryway wheelchair accessible
Consider planning for and building a wheelchair-accessible ramp leading up to the storefront so that they can access the establishment with ease. Putting ramps at the front stores is simply ‘extending an invite’ to those with mobility issues into the store. In addition to this, rails and edge protection devices should be added while building the ramp as a safety measure.
3. Enhance the visibility of corners, edges and steps
Highlight these areas with highly contrasting colored or luminous material to make them easily distinguishable and visible in the dark.
4. Install handicap-friendly doors
Generally, the front doors should be easy to open and close from the inside and outside. The market has introduced various options, for example, those that use handlebars or loops to open the door instead of a latch. Another option is an automatic door that opens without human intervention and also electric doors with push openers. Whatever the option, stores should invest in safe and convenient doors for their disabled customers.
5. Use considerate language when choosing signage
It is vital to treat persons with a disability like we’d treat anyone else. Thus, the language used in signage should be sensitive. Some words such as ’handicapped’ may be considered offensive by many hence words such as “accessible” may be more appropriate. Written information should be structured logically in plain and straightforward language and with as few words as possible. However, these aids should never assume that a person with a disability needs help. Instead, they should politely offer their help as a gesture of customer care and support.
6. Have an aid at the entrance of the store
Have a guide on standby to help if need be. They should be equipped with skills to interact with customers who are visually and physically impaired. One of the vital skills includes knowledge of sign language for deaf customers and should also be prepared to read menus to blind or low-vision customers.
These measures are just the first steps towards making impaired persons feel part of the society by making it easy to access amenities as any other customer. The best way we can promote inclusivity is by making them feel safe and welcome into these spaces right from the front door.