If you’re opening a small business, you know how important it is that everyone who walks through your door feels welcomed and respected. Adhering to the American With Disabilities Act is not only required for companies with more than 15 employees, but is necessary for creating an atmosphere of acceptance.
Not making your small business ADA compliant will only cause you to lose customers that either cannot enter or feel disrespected — and could even land you in legal hot water.
Below you can learn some easy tips and rules that will make your establishment a welcoming spot for people with disabilities. Ideally, this should be done prior to opening, but it’s never too late to make improvements now!
1. Check for Physical Barriers
Entryways and hallways must be accessible for people with disabilities. Make sure there is room for all wheelchairs, even larger motorized ones to navigate your halls. If you only have steps at your entrance, install a ramp with a low grade. Have handicapped parking spaces clearly marked and close to your entrance.
If it is impossible to make an entryway handicap accessible, then you must offer an alternative route for those who need it. It is not only embarrassing for a customer to get stuck in your workplace but a fire hazard as well.
2. Clearly Show You Welcome Service Animals
At the moment, The ADA only recognizes dogs as service animals. People with service dogs are not required to show you any documents to prove their free service dog registration. Legally you may only ask if the animal is required because of a disability and what the dog is trained to do. You cannot ask what disability someone may come in with. Learn more and what you can and cannot do on the official government website.
However, service animals must be well-trained and quiet for the benefit of other customers. If your business is a restaurant, offering water bowls to service dogs can be a great way to show you appreciate customers who require service dogs.
3. Train Your Staff to Assist People With Disabilities
Communication is how the world interacts with your company. A well-trained and sensitive staff can make all the difference in the reputation of your establishment. Knowing how to guide a blind person to their seat will make that customer feel taken care of. Having a pen and paper ready to communicate with potential deaf patrons is respectful and polite.
Staff should be prepared to reach items on behalf of wheelchair-bound persons who could not on their own. All the physical improvements of your small business will not matter without a prepared crew ready to help everyone equally.
4. Display Appropriate Signage
Signage displaying ADA-compliant rooms must be clearly visible. Signs must be translated into braille and cannot be mounted on any moving doors. Signs must also be 60 inches or fewer from the ground, so they are readable to all. All writing must be high-contrast and printed on a non-glare surface for the benefit of the seeing impaired.
Exits and escape routes all must be clearly marked and illuminated at all times. Display proper pictograms on signs that designate bathrooms, elevators, and staff-only rooms. Proper and clear signage gives all patrons the dignity of way-finding on their own.
Celebrate Your Customer-Focused Business
Whether you operate a hotel, restaurant, retail shop, or doctor’s office — opening your space to everyone not only is the right (and legal!) thing to do, but it provides the opportunity for more business. Strictly adhering to ADA rules increases word of mouth recommendations from others who value accessibility.
Put customers first and customers will put you first!