Access Hints And Tips For The Smaller Business.

January 8th, 2007

Access Hints And Tips For The Smaller Business.

Consulting Your Disabled Customers

It helps to ask customers with disabilities how they would like goods and services to be provided, particularly where, for whatever reason, there are barriers to equal access.

Can Disabled people find your shop or premises?

Clear external signs help people with visual impairments or learning difficulties identify the shop.

Can disabled people get into the shop or premises?

Ideally, disabled customers will be able to enter the shop independently, through the main front door, just like non-disabled customers – for example, where there is level access through a wide door. But in many premises – for instance smaller ones, older buildings or buildings on awkward sites – equality of access may not be possible at reasonable cost.

In new buildings, the required minimum clear opening width for external doors is 800mm and for internal doors is 750mm. This allows easy wheelchair access and access for people pushing baby buggies. For existing premises, 750mm clear opening width for external doors is acceptable for wheelchair access.

Where full independent wheelchair access is not possible, consider other changes such as:

  • Providing a temporary portable ramp
  • Positioning door handles at an easier height
  • Making the door less heavy to open
  • Providing a call bell to alert staff when a disabled customer needs assistance to enter the premises.
  • Are there alternative ways of providing the service?

Examples for goods might include:

  • Operating a telephone mail order or local delivery scheme
  • Staff who will put together an order and bring the goods to the front door or the nearest easy collection point

Examples for services might include:

  • Home visits for disabled customers
  • Providing the service in an alternative, accessible location either by appointment or perhaps on a regular basis (for example once a week).

Can disabled people access your goods and services?

Ideally, disabled customers should be able to find their way to all sales areas, browse and inspect goods, bring them to the cash desk or receive services in the same way as non-disabled people do. For people with visual impairments who have some use of sight, consider:

  • Clear signs and clear product labelling and pricing
  • Making it easier to read menus in cafes or product information displays
  • Providing written menus or other product information in large print versions, or having staff read information out to visually impaired customers.
  • Avoiding the use of awkward or dangerously placed fittings and fixtures can make independent movement easier for blind customers. Some blind people might prefer to be guided round the shop by a member of staff or to have goods brought to them.

For wheelchair users or others who cannot access display areas or reach goods on shelves, staff could assist them – training considerations obviously come into play if this is your reasonable adjustment.

Can disabled customers use checkouts, counters and service desks?

The ideal height for wheelchair users is 750-800mm from floor level. There should be unobstructed space under the counter for the person’s legs and the wheelchair footrest. Think about lowering a section of counter to improve access for wheelchair users, but don’t forget that you need to make sure your considering the needs of ambulent users as well…..

Should you be providing WCs for public use?

For many small shops, the issue of providing WCs does not arise – customers do not expect to have access to a WC. However, where WCs are provided for the public (for example in cafes or in other situations where customers may be on the premises for a period of time) consider their accessibility by disabled customers – both getting to and using facilities. If there is space available and a WC compartment can be modified to full wheelchair accessible standards, this could greatly benefit disabled customers.

Statutory consent for some building changes

When undertaking changes to premises, you may need to obtain consent, including planning permission, building regulations approval and listed building consent. The DDA does not override the need to obtain such consents.

Leased premises

If you do not own your premises and the terms of your lease do not allow you to make alterations, special provisions apply. The Act enables you to make the alteration if the landlord consents, and also says that the landlord must not withhold consent “unreasonably”, but may attach “reasonable conditions” to the consent.

For further guidance around making reasonable adjustements you can contact Inclusion by clicking here.