If you don’t live with a disability or are close to someone that does live with a disability you may never realize how difficult it is to get around in this world. Many people take for granted being able to go where ever they want to. Living with a disability there is a lot of thought and planning that goes into every trip that involves leaving the house. Usually there is no such thing as stopping at the store to quick pick up something, going to get gas, shopping or even to a medical appointment.
Just because businesses say they are accessible doesn’t mean that they really are. Until you are the one using the wheelchair or a scooter, that a business may or may not have for their customers, or other assistive devices you will not get the full experience of whether or not it’s accessible. I have been at gas stations that have a button to push if you need assistance. That isn’t helpful when you aren’t able to get out of the car. I have been stuck in multiple bathrooms because the doors are too heavy or difficult to get out of yet have a handicapped sign outside the door. I don’t know who gets to decide that it deserves the handicapped accessible symbol but I do know that more people living with disabilities need to be a part of the process.
Earlier this year I created a checklist for businesses based on my own personal experience and from the feedback provided by other people in disability, chronic pain and amputee social media groups. I previously shared how a Target manager followed me around their store to see what it was like to look at the store through the lens of living with a disability. I filled out the checklist and made notes as we went through the store and met with him afterwards to talk more about it. I was so excited to have a store like Target be willing to look at the suggestions. He said they were doing a remodel in the future and would send it up the chain to see if some of the suggestions could get implemented into the remodel.
After we met I sent him the checklist of suggestions of changes, that in some cases were desperately needed. I also wrote a letter to go along with the checklist about why these changes are so important and why businesses need to be the ones to make the changes. Making changes in the government is a very long process and often doesn’t make specific enough rules for businesses to follow.
Here is a portion of that letter: I believe that together we can all fight to make a change. As a person with a disability I want to be able to come into your business. Businesses should step up and make changes so those of us with disabilities can come into your businesses. According to the Census Bureau and the American Community Survey, in 2010 there were 56.7 million people (nearly 1 in 5) had a disability in the United States. By the year 2030 it is predicted that 71.5 million baby boomers will be over the age of 65 which will make this number grow even larger. This will make it even more essential to make changes so businesses can let all customers in their establishments regardless of their disabilities. The American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) was updated in 2010 with compliance dates ending in March 15, 2012 according to www.ada.gov/regs2010. These updates aren’t nearly enough. There is a worldwide 2030 Agenda that has sustainable development goals to Leave No One Behind. While I am so relieved that this is on people’s radar, 2030 is a long time away and people like, myself want to see changes happen sooner than that. We are the ones living with these challenges every day.
- Put the phone number on the handicap sign if someone needs help getting inside
- Cart corrals close to handicap parking
- Automatic door openers to get into the building
- All automatic door openers should be set to open slowly and long enough for a person to get through them
- A secure place to hold crutches, walkers, canes, etc
- Having a scooter/multiple scooters available and charged by the entrance
- Put the store phone number on the scooter
- Have cup holders on scooters and carts
- If there is only a wheelchair available, or no device is available have a team member offer to help shop
- Wheelchairs with carts shouldn’t swing up or you can’t stand to reach items
- Rugs can be a tripping hazard so should be flat
- Rugs/carpet is needed so people with crutches/canes don’t fall on wet floors including the bathroom
- Having a bathroom in the front and back of large stores
- Automatic door openers for all bathroom doors
- All doors should have lever openings and not knobs
- The opening to get into the bathroom needs to be wide enough for the store scooter to get through
- Bathroom stall doors need to be wider
- Install two hooks in the handicapped bathroom stall for service dogs
- Have a family style restroom for those that need to have a family member or worker in the bathroom to help them
- Toilets should be handicap accessible (higher)
- Strong support bars in the bathroom stalls
- Lower paper towel holders, soap dispensers, light switches and hooks for people with disabilities and children
- Lower sinks available for people with disabilities and a stool for people that can’t reach
- Increase weight capacity on the changing tables for children with disabilities
- Install the paper towel holder next to the sink along with the garbage to reduce water on the floor in the bathroom
- Doors should be set to open easily and not too heavy if there is not an automatic door opener
- Wider aisles to allow space to turn at the end
- Remove displays in the aisle so wheelchairs/ scooters can get through
- Racks should be far enough apart to get through with a wheelchair/ scooter without running into them
- Putting a bench or chair to rest in places throughout the store
- Check on customers to see if they need help
- Put duplicate items on the top shelves
- Put heavy items on bottom shelves
- Make columns a different color than the floor to make it easier for people with low vision
- Put the store phone number throughout the store in case someone needs help C
- Chairs in the dressing rooms
- Lower checkouts and ATM card readers
- Offering help out to anyone in a wheelchair/ scooter or that has an assistive device
- Offer free delivery service, free shipping or eliminate price increases for pick up to people living with a disability
- Outside: even pavement, no cracks or small steps
- More handicapped parking stalls
- If there is a ramp have a railing
- Truncated domes
- Raised bumps that signal ramps and curbs are good for those with visual impairment but not good for those with certain scooters or walkers
- Ramps painted a different color than the sidewalk, including the wings
- Snow and ice removal from entrances into the building
- Handicapped entrances in the front
- Offer curbside assistance
- Putting the phone number on the gas pump in addition to a working button for assistance with pumping gas
- Handicapped seating at places like movie theaters should offer seating closer together for those that can transfer from their chairs to a seat
- Lower peep holes in hotel rooms
This meeting took place months ago and although I have heard nothing in return. I hope that they are still considering them and just haven’t had time to get back to me. I still go there because the workers there are helpful and do what they can to make it easier to shop there. We need the people up the chain to make the changes. We need more people with disabilities involved in decision making processes.
I understand that change involves money but not allowing people to come into your business will cost you more money and word of mouth goes a long way. After reading the story my local dentist office wanted to go through the checklist process with me. They don’t go have the money like some large corporations do but at my next appointment my dentist surprised me with the new handicapped sign he had made with their phone number on the bottom of the sign. I cried tears of joy and finally feeling validated by a business that recognized changes can be made. It likely cost them more money, but they didn’t care because they wanted to help their customers. This is another case where word of mouth travels fast. Later that day my chiropractor wanted to talk to the dentist to get the same sign made for his business.
Just because we are disabled doesn’t mean that we are worth any less than any other customer. Maybe we need to have a national day for those of us living with a disability and chronic pain and show up at these businesses but only stay outside to show just how many people it truly does affect and how much business they are missing out on because they won’t make the changes, so we can all come inside. I hope that more people are willing to stand up and advocate for change to be made. If small businesses can make changes imagine what large businesses can do.
Having the knowledge to make change and doing nothing with it is worse than not knowing anything about it.
People living with disabilities face uncertainty with the government and spending cuts. It forces people to have to watch what they spend more than they already do. I also hear on the news all the time how brick and mortar businesses are losing money because of online shopping companies. I love when I can go shopping at the actual store but so many places make it so difficult that it’s often easier to stay home. At least I know if I shop online I don’t have to worry about getting stuck in the bathroom, falling down or running into racks.
Please share this with others so together we can make a difference and if you find a business that is willing to make a change promote them with #WillYouLetUsIn.