Small Business

Disability Accessibility Leads to Increased Profitability for Small Businesses

Dear NJ Small Business Advisor:

Q: I own a local pizza restaurant and I want to make sure my establishment is accessible to people with disabilities. How do I best go about improving accessibility?

A: Making your business accessible to people with disabilities should be a priority since, according to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 4 people in the United States have a disability. Millions of these people have disposable income to spend in businesses and restaurants.

Karen Roy is a veteran employee of Sayreville-based Numotion, which is a supplier of custom wheelchair technology, medical supplies, and has 3,000 employees across the US. Numotion is part of a specialized industry called complex rehabilitative technology (CRT).

Roy has been a wheelchair user for 35 years and has encountered many barriers in accessing business establishments in her community. According to Roy, accessibility issues can be remedied, and the financial gains far exceed the costs.

Roy suggests several ways to make your business more accessible to customers with disabilities:

  • Have multiple van-accessible parking spots available. Roy’s advice is to go above the ADA standards. There is usually a lack of accessible parking spots available at most businesses.
  • Keep the threshold to the front entrance as flat as possible. Large bumps can prevent both manual and power wheelchair users from entering independently.
  • Make sure you have signs that indicate where the accessible seating and accessible restrooms are located. All signage in your establishment should be in Braille for people who are blind or have low vision.
  • Check-out counters and bars should all have an accessible section at most 36 inches above the floor. In addition, restaurants should have multiple tables that are wheelchair height. Many restaurants these days have high-top tables or booths, but neither works for most wheelchair users.
  • Keep walkways and aisles at least 36 inches wide and free from clutter in order to allow wheelchairs and other mobility devices to easily pass.
  • Ensure the accessible restroom stall meets the ADA requirement for both width and depth. Make sure a person seated can reach the soap and towel dispenser and see in the mirror.
  • Welcome service animals. Many people with visible and invisible disabilities rely on service animals for independence. Authentic service animals are highly trained to be safe in business establishments.
  • Find ways to make the front door easy to open. While automatic door openers are ideal, they are often expensive. One alternative to an automatic door is to have an employee assigned to watch the front door and train them to open it for people with disabilities.

The best place to find all the specific information about making your business accessible, go to Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Title III of the ADA focuses on private and public entities that are considered “public accommodations,” and requires that businesses not discriminate against customers based on disability, including providing reasonable access.

About the Author:

Bruce Freeman launched and successfully ran his own high-tech public relations company, Proline Communications, after leaving a management position at a major technology publication firm. For 20 years, he served as Professor of Marketing at the Stillman School of Business at Seton Hall University. He is co-author of the start-up guide, “Birthing the Elephant” (Penguin Random House).

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