As a small business owner, you know that making money means attracting as many customers as possible. That means you need to make your business as inclusive and accessible as possible. Is your brick-and-mortar establishment accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities? If not, have no fear. Improving accessibility doesn’t have to mean a major overhaul. Start small, and evaluate your entrance, bathroom, and interior layout to discover possible areas for improvement.
Accessible Entrances and Exits
The most obvious place to start looking at accessibility is the entrance to your establishment. Are you elevated from street level? If so, is there an accessible ramp leading your doorway? If you already have a ramp, consider the door itself. How easy is it for someone in a wheelchair to open the door by themselves? Automatic doors or those you can prop open when it’s nice out are not only great for accessibility, but they also make things much easier for elderly customers with walkers and parents with strollers. If your business isn’t on the ground floor, make sure there’s an elevator within a reasonable distance of your front door.
Having an accessible washroom might mean ensuring that there’s a handicap stall in your larger facility or simply installing a grab bar behind the toilet in a single-person bathroom. Make sure that corridors are wide and not blocked by trash cans or hand dryers.
According to the current standards, an accessible washroom should have at least a 85-centimetre wide doorway. There should be 80 centimetres of space beside the toilet and a turning radius of at least 1.2 metres, which is enough room for a full-size wheelchair to rotate 360 degrees without getting stuck on anything.
While you might think of renovations and re-fittings when it comes to creating better accessibility, sometimes it’s as easy as improving the lighting or choosing an easy-to-read font for your awning, signs, and menus. Maybe you own a restaurant and prefer to set the mood with dim candlelight or warm, shaded lamps. You can still promote accessibility in other ways, such as increasing the font size and contrast on your menu or offering portable light sources by request. Make a note of it on your menu to let guests know the option exists or place a easily readable sign near your doorway.
Try varying the height of your countertops and tables so people in wheelchairs can sit comfortably. For retail businesses, improving accessibility might be as simple as installing a wireless card reader or one with a long cord for passing it across the counter to someone at a lower level.
Accessibility Audits and Assessments
You don’t have to become an accessibility expert overnight as accessibility checklists and audits are available across Canada. For example, in British Columbia, the Rick Hansen Foundation offers free accessibility audits for businesses and municipal buildings. During an audit, a team of experts visits your business and evaluates its level of accessibility while offering suggestions for more improvements.
You can also find self-assessment tools online or get them from your provincial government. Most provincial governments have a website that explains building code accessibility requirements. Visit a website or contact your provincial government branch to find out the building requirements in your area, and see if it offers an accessibility worksheet or checklist.
If you do decide to go through with some renovations, Quickbooks offers easy-to-use tracking apps that help you record all the related expenses and your sales performance after the fact. Accessibility renovations can be lucrative for your small Canadian business in the long run, and you can also make them work for you when tax time rolls around.