We are all physically disabled at some point of time in our lives. A child, a person with a broken leg and hand, a parent with a pram (baby stroller), an elderly or old age person, etc., are all disabled in some way.
Those who remain healthy and able-bodied all their lives are few. So, one should ensure accessibility for disabled in their retail store.
As far as the accessibility for the disabled is concerned, it is important that it should be barrier-free and adapted to fulfil the needs of all people equally.
Retail stores need to aim for more than accessibility. They need to work at being more welcoming to people with disabilities.
Let us understand in this blog, why accessibility for disabled is important and how you can ensure it.
Why is accessibility important?
Everyday retail accessibility can, at times may be old, even trivial. It may sound like merely the lifestyle concerns of otherwise privileged and comfortable wheelchair users and elderly retirees with mobility problem compared with dire freedom and captivity, and issues every disabled person still face.
Why are so many places still inaccessible to us? Why do so many supposedly accessible places still feel so unwelcoming?
We may agree with the fact that ordinary business accessibility is as relevant today as it was in the 90s. Accessibility for the disabled is still treated like some kind of premium facility rather than a civic responsibility for any business.
According to research by WHO, An estimated 1.3 billion people – or 16% of the global population – experience a significant disability today. It is such a vast number and is not meant to be discarded. It may be more relevant now than ever before.
So, every format of the retail market should focus towards providing accessibility for disabled people, to meet their needs just like they do with every other potential customer. They are the customers with specific needs but the same value as any other.
Depending on the disabilities (physical, sensual, psychological, neurological), the difficulties they can face are not the same. So, shopping malls, and retail stores need to adapt to this change accordingly.
Accessibility in Retail: Why it matters
When we face the issue of inaccessibility in a retail store, we assume that the poor in-store experience can be solved by online ordering the groceries, clothes or the product we want.
Thus, it neglects the fact that people with disabilities should not have to compromise for society as everyone has the same right to live their life. It doesn’t matter whether they are handicapped or not.
So, our stores should be designed in such a way that they can meet their needs as well.
Negative Consequences of Inaccessible Retail
Currently, most research focuses on the financial costs of retail and how it negatively affects consumers and businesses.
Yes, it’s important. But it is also very important to consider how inaccessible retail affects people with disabilities daily. In this case, empathy is very essential.
As a result of inaccessible retail for disabled people, the following situations can occur:
- Insufficient infrastructure, excessive mess, or malfunctioning equipment can lead to injuries in stores.
- A lack of access to products or services results in the need to travel farther.
- A lack of accessible venues prevents people from participating in social activities.
- Anxiety and stress caused by being unable to participate in everyday activities
An inaccessible retail environment may also impede independent living. In the case of a person with a visual impairment, others may be needed to assist with everyday tasks, such as grocery shopping, if the only store in the town is inaccessible.
So, inaccessible retail has many long-term negative consequences that extend beyond individuals. A more inclusive society would be achieved if businesses made their stores more accessible.
How to make your Store More Accessible
Now you know why accessibility for disabled is important in your retail store.
So, here are five actionable steps you as a business can take to create or improve the accessibility of your retail, and offer a more welcoming environment for special customers.
1. Do some solid research
A thorough assessment of your retail store and some positive changes could be achieved by doing better research after understanding how people with disabilities live.
What are the challenges they face daily? What can your retail store do to be more barrier-free and accommodating for them?
Understanding the different kinds of disabilities should also be part of this research. It’s not just people with disabilities who may need accessibility features in a retail store. It’s about different other types of disabilities that would be taken into consideration as well.
Additionally, there are hearing, cognitive, and physical disabilities that require various accommodations.
Once you understand the needs of those with disabilities, designing an action plan that meets (or exceeds) their expectations will be much easier.
2. Assess your Surroundings
Now that you understand what people with disabilities need, it’s time to evaluate the accessibility for the disabled in your retail store. By using your research, list the physical barriers that may prevent customers from accessing your products or services.
To give you a headstart, here are some of the most common obstacles to accessibility for disabled:
- Wheelchairs have difficulty navigating through narrow doorways and aisles
- There are stairs, but there are no ramps
- No signs indicating where restrooms, exits, or other important areas are located
- Excessive glare or poor lighting
- The level of noise is too loud or overwhelming
Be sure to note any changes that need to be made, and then work on making them!
3. Install features for added accessibility
Adding ramps, installing grab bars, and clearing pathways are all common physical changes that can increase accessibility for disabled at a retail store.
You can find many more creative solutions if you put in the extra effort; you can also find many more innovative solutions.
Here are some ideas for you:
- Customers with visual impairments can see products clearly with handheld mirrors and magnifying glasses.
- You can place Braille signage next to the traditional signage
- Offering a more comprehensive range of product sizes to meet the physical needs of their physical disability
- To go a step ahead, you can also create quiet areas for those who need a break from the crowds and noise
These go beyond what most retail stores offer, so you’ll make an important statement just by implementing these small changes.
4. Train your Staff on Disability Etiquette
Accessibility for the disabled is not just a matter of your store’s physical environment but also how your staff interacts with the customers.
In order to provide the best customer service to everyone who walks through your doors, your staff should be aware of basic disability etiquette.
In addition to your training, you should provide employees with detailed information about the experiences that people with disabilities have in your store. Your staff will be better able to provide assistance and accommodations if they understand their needs.
5 Stay Updated on changing Regulations.
Accessibility for disabled laws and regulations are constantly changing. Staying up-to-date is also vital as we gain a better understanding of their needs.
To stay compliant, you should work with a professional who is specialized in accessibility for disabled. They can assist you in auditing your store, making recommendations for changes if necessary, and informing you of any changes or new legislation that may affect your business.
Another way around, there are a few key websites where you can stay up-to-date on the latest disability accessibility news:
Being cautious and implementing all the changes recommended by disability accessibility professionals can be a bit expensive, but it’s a substantial investment.
Not only are you increasing your store’s accessibility for disabled, but you’re also sending a message that everyone is welcomed and valued at your store. And it leaves a big impact on society.
Conclusion: Accessibility for Disabled
In 2023, the world will be far more accommodating than it used to be, but retailers still have a long way to go. The focus on accessibility in the retail industry has been slowly and gradually increasing.
However, implementing the changes and adjustments recommended in this article would help your store to be more accessible to everyone.
And if you are a brand that needs help in building highly accessible retail stores for your customers, 91Squarefeet is the solution to your problem.