Could you make your business more accessible?

Any business that provides a service must ensure that this is accessible to disabled people. Your duties as a service provider under the Equality Act 2010, means coming up with reasonable solutions resulting in disabled customers having the same opportunities to use goods or services as those non disabled.

accessible

Since 1999 you have needed to consider how you provide your goods or service by asking;
• Are there any barriers to this provision?
• Can you remove or change these barriers?
• Can you provide the service in an alternative way?

Disability may include sight or hearing impairments, physical/mobility impairments, cognitive, mental health and learning difficulties and can affect customers of all ages. Naturally any changes you make to improve access for disabled people advantage all customers.

Don’t forget that if you improve access to disabled people then you improve it for everyone, therefore increasing your customer base. In 2014/15, 10.4 million disabled people and their families in the UK had an aggregate annual household income of £249 billion, which adds up to an awful lot of spending power.

Shop Audit

The first questions you need to ask yourself are:
• Can all customers get into my shop/business?
• Can customers move around when they get inside?
• If not, how can I provide my service in a different way?

For instance, if you have a small step or steps into your premises, can you provide a ramp for use by wheelchairs users or steps with handrails for people who have mobility difficulties? If inclusion is not possible (because of the height of steps for example) could the service be offered in another location?

Once inside, ask yourself if wheelchair users are able to move around your shop and choose goods independently (or with help if required). Check if a part of the counter is at a level suitable for wheelchair users, and customer toilets are accessible for people with mobility difficulties and wheelchair users. Larger cubicles can attract families as they are also more accessible to those with children.

Simple Steps to Take

The following range of improvements can be relatively easy
to carry out and would make it easier for disabled or elderly
customers to use your service.

Entrance: Provide a ‘call for help’ bell and notice positioned
within easy reach, on your external shop front so that disabled
people can summon assistance (if they cannot get in
independently).

Steps: Provide a handrail, highlighted step edges and provide a
portable ramp if level or ramped access is not possible.

Doors: If you do not have automatic doors, ensure the door is easy
to open independently and do not cover vision panels. Lever style
handles are easier to open if you have dexterity difficulties.

Signs: Ensure that signs are large enough, clear and in upper and
lower-case text (which is much easier to read than capitals) as are
the use of symbols. Black or dark blue on white, or white or yellow
on black or dark blue are good colour contrasts.

Flooring: Ensure that floor coverings are non-slip with no loose
pieces. Rugs are not generally helpful. Door mats can be a barrier
to wheelchair users. Ideally, they should be smooth (avoid the
coco-mat variety which is difficult to use from a wheelchair).

Layout: Within space restrictions try to ensure that there is
enough circulation space for people, particularly wheelchairs or
pushchairs.

Aid to hearing: A hearing enhancement system could be installed
at service or reception counters in noisy areas or at glazed
screens, e.g. an induction loop.

Decoration: Consider colour contrast which helps people with sight
impairments to see the difference between walls, floors, doors and
door frames.

Training: Provide disability awareness training for staff who have
contact with the public. Staff management, policies and attitudes
towards serving disabled customers are just as important as the
premises themselves.

If you need advice or support in achieving changes please contact South Oxfordshire District Council.

Equalities officer
Tel: 01235 422108
Cheryl.reeves@southandvale.gov.uk

Building control team
Tel: 01235 422700
building.control@southandvale.gov.uk

Below are some useful links referring to the regulations on accessible premises.
Part M – Access to and use of buildings

Equality and Human Rights Commission