Is your retail business handicap accessible? Not only are there federal regulations in place that dictate requirements for handicap access for your business, you owe it to your customers with disabilities to offer them a facility and a shopping experience that is safe, easy to use, and pleasurable. You will also have to provide handicap access for employees or potential employees and for other visitors. Most of these accommodations are simple and easy to implement, especially if you address them up front before you complete the finish out in the space. Here are some things to consider in determining if your retail business is handicap accessible:
- Americans with Disabilities Act - Signed into law on July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA involves broad legislation intended to protect people with disabilities and make businesses and other public places more accessible to people with disabilities. In addition to all areas of employment, the ADA requires that all public facilities, including restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, retail stores, etc., as well as privately owned transportation systems, make space accommodations that are wheelchair accessible.
- Bathrooms – Your bathrooms should have doorways wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs, sinks low enough for wheelchair-bound customers and employees to reach easily and hand rails for safety and comfort.
- Aisles – You should make sure that your aisles are free of clutter and are wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs. Shopping aisles are only regulated in that you can’t allow barriers, but it shows consideration to keep your aisles wide enough to accommodate ALL shoppers, as well as you staff.
- Ramps – If the only access to your building includes steps or stairs, you are required by the ADA to provide a wheelchair accessible ramp if your landlord has not already done so.
- Parking – All fifty states require by law that your building offer designated and marked spaces for persons with handicaps. Work with your landlord to make sure that your storefront is compliant before you move in.
Customer service starts with access to your building and your ability to create an environment for your customers that does not discriminate against any disability. Not only are you required by law to provide certain accommodations, but you also have a responsible as a business owner to make your customers comfortable. When you are planning your retail space and negotiating your lease, don’t forget to consider the requirements needed to provide handicap accessibility for your retail business.