How can my Business Accommodate People with Physical Disabilities?

Susan Grindstaff

There are a number of ways your business can accommodate people with physical disabilities, and depending on your location, many of these may be required by law. Some of the more obvious ways include providing wheelchairs ramps for entry and exit to your facility and installing doorways wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs or walkers. Bathrooms should ideally provide safety handrails, and some of the stalls should be extra large. Many people in wheelchairs may need assistance in getting out of the chair, so the stalls should be able to accommodate the wheelchair and at least two people. Making your business friendly to people with physical disabilities will show the community that you are concerned about providing equal access to everyone, which can be important in establishing good community relations.

A stair lift can be installed to allow disabled individuals access to upper floors.
A stair lift can be installed to allow disabled individuals access to upper floors.

Parking is important to people with physical disabilities, and they often require more space to park their cars. This is because they may need to have enough room to maneuver a wheelchair out of the car onto the pavement. Parking spaces nearest the building should be reserved for people with physical disabilities so they do not have as far to travel to get to the door. Additionally, parking areas for people with physical disabilities should be well lit at night. If there is a sidewalk running between the parking lot and the building, a cement wheelchair ramp should be provided.

Businesses can design websites that use visual presentations of facial and lip movements to communicate with deaf customers.
Businesses can design websites that use visual presentations of facial and lip movements to communicate with deaf customers.

If possible, you should have some of your employees learn sign language. This will allow the deaf to frequent your business without having to resort to writing out their requests or bringing along an interpreter. Many cities offer free programs for people who want to learn sign language, but if necessary, you should be prepared to handle the expense of this instruction.

An uneven floor or obstacles in the floor can hinder even the most mobile customers with physical disabilities.
An uneven floor or obstacles in the floor can hinder even the most mobile customers with physical disabilities.

Sometimes door handles can present a problem for people with physical disabilities. Some conditions, such as arthritis, make it difficult to exert the pressure necessary to open some doors, so it may be a good idea to have doors that open simply by pushing. In addition, some door handles may be placed too high for people in wheelchairs to easily grasp. You should make sure that door hardware is placed so it is accessible for everyone.

Restrooms can be modified so they are accessible to people who rely on wheelchairs.
Restrooms can be modified so they are accessible to people who rely on wheelchairs.

The setup of the interior of your business should also be designed with people with physical disabilities in mind. If your business contains aisles, you should be sure and place the aisles far enough apart so they do not encumber the use of a wheelchair of walker. Checkout and service counters should be low enough so people in wheelchairs can easily reach them. In addition, if your business provides tables or booths, seating should be removable so a wheelchair can be used instead.

Step stools and reaching aids, as well as offering assistance when needed, can aid customers with dwarfism or other conditions which cause short stature.
Step stools and reaching aids, as well as offering assistance when needed, can aid customers with dwarfism or other conditions which cause short stature.

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