Business owners take note. Discretionary spending to the tune of $175 billion is at stake.
People with disabilities enjoy going out and socializing with their friends and family… and they spend money. If they cannot enter your establishment without a great deal of difficulty, they will patronize your competitor. If you are under the impression that there are no people with disabilities in your neighborhood, it is more likely that they simply are not visiting your place of business and are spending their discretionary dollars elsewhere.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 10 percent of the world’s population – approximately 650 million people, of which 200 million are children, live with some form of disability.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2007),18 percent of the population of the United States has some level of disability, representing 51.2 million people, 11 percent of which are children. Of those, 32.5 million have a severe disability.The number of Americans age six and above who need assistance with one or more activities of daily living is 10.7 million; 2.7 million aged 15 and up use a wheelchair; and another 9.1 million use other mobility aids such as a cane, crutches, or walker. We’re talking about a lot of people – and potential customers.
The U.S. Department of Labor estimates this large group to have $175 billion in discretionary spending, more than four times that of highly sought-after demographic of 8-14 year olds.
Business owners may believe their establishment to be accessible when it is not. The best way to know for sure is to invite people with various disabilities to visit. Ask them to rate the parking lot, entrances, rest rooms, and take full advantage of whatever services you offer. Listen carefully to their feedback, both positive and negative. You may find that only a few inexpensive tweaks will make the difference between a business that welcomes people with disabilities and one that shuts them out.
Most importantly, when potential patrons of your business call to inquire about accessibility, be honest. If a person in a wheelchair cannot navigate your venue, leading them to believe they can creates undue hardship.
People with disabilities, like everyone else, have a circle of friends and family who socialize with them. Being respectful of their needs breeds word-of-mouth advertising and fosters good will in the community. Spend a little now on making your building easily accessible and reap the long-term rewards of repeat customers. It makes good business sense!
The Americans with Disabilities Act was designed to ensure the civil rights of people with disabilities. Public accommodations are private entities who own, lease, lease to, or operate public facilities that must comply with specific requirements related to architectural standards for new and altered buildings; reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures; effective communication with people with hearing, vision, or speech disabilities; and other access requirements.
Public accommodations must remove barriers in existing buildings where it is easy to do so without much difficulty or expense, given the public accommodation’s resources. Beyond access to the building itself, business owners can help by removing internal barriers such as blocked or unkempt aisles. And remember, state laws regarding animals in public businesses, particularly where food is served, do not apply to service animals.
The ADA has established the Business Connection to assist business owners in understanding policies and practices that discriminate against people with disabilities and how to comply when constructing or altering facilities.
There is no need to wonder if you are in compliance, or what changes you should make. ADA Specialists are available to provide ADA information and answers to technical questions. For more information on the Americans with Disabilities Act: www.ada.gov * Voice: 800-514-0301 * TTY: 800-514-0383
To those who live with some degree of disability, please tell business owners about difficulties you have encountered in public facilities. Complaints about violations may be filed with the Department of Justice.
Previously published on Care2 Healthy & Green Living