According to the statistics by the Australian Network on Disability, around 639 300 Australians use some type of mobility aid. Almost 500 000 of them have made modifications to their home in order to make it safer and more accessible. And this is as much as these people can do on their own to overcome the challenges of daily life. But life also involves activities like going to the bank, grocery shopping, and socializing. And in these situations, it’s up to the business owners to make their establishment more accessible to people with disabilities.
Whether you’re a retail store, grocery shop, bank or cafe, making your premises more welcoming to people with disabilities helps to create a more inclusive society. Plus, it can also increase your customer base. Since making your business more accessible to wheelchair users is often a complicated process, let’s take a closer look at the suggested modifications you should do.
Provide an Alternative to Stairs
Steps are one of the largest obstacles wheelchair users face inside and outside of a building. If your business has stairs, you need to provide an alternative option to access the different levels. The best option is to install a platform or stair lift. A platform lift allows wheelchair users and people with limited mobility to travel up and down between different levels similarly to an elevator. However, as opposed to an elevator, a platform lift is easier to install and takes up less space. Platform lifts can be integrated indoors or outdoors and come in a variety of finishes, allowing them to easily blend into the surroundings.
As opposed to a platform stair lift is installed directly onto the staircase, allowing people with mobility problems to move up and down the stairs with ease. Similarly to the platform stair lift is also easy and fast to install on both indoor and outdoor staircases. But a unique advantage of a stair lift is that it can be conveniently folded up without taking up any space when it’s not being used. It can also be easily removed and installed in a different staircase should your needs change. If you have the space and budget, you can also install an elevator which can be used by several people at the same time. However, unlike a platform stair lift, an elevator will require making structural changes which can mean downtime for your business.
As you can see, whether a platform stair lift or elevator is the best option for you depends on your available space and how much money you’re willing to spend. After all, making your premises more accessible also requires investing in extra modifications.
Make Entrance Adaptations
Another common problem for people with wheelchairs is entering through doors. If the door isn’t wide enough, there’s obviously a problem. So, make sure that all the doors in your premises have a minimum clear opening width of 830mm. Revolving doors and heavy doors should be avoided. Instead, make sure that the doors have handles and knobs that aren’t higher than 1m from the floor level. If you can install automatic doors – even better. If your front entrance is raised from the curb, purchase and install a ramp so that wheelchair users can easily get in.
Keep the Aisles Clear
Any premise that’s overcrowded by too many racks, dining chairs, refrigerators and other objects that obstruct walkways gives off the impression that it was designed for only certain types of customers. Simply by making sure that the space inside your facility is wide, open and easy to move around can make it easier and safer for wheelchair users to use your services. In addition, this type of open arrangement will make any customer feel more comfortable as opposed to a space that’s crowded. And if they had a comfortable experience, customers are more likely to come back .
Ensure the Restroom Is Accessible
If your premises are going to have public restrooms that your customers can use, make sure that there’s at least one toilet stall that is designed for wheelchair users. To be accessible a toilet stall needs to have a door that’s at least 83cm wide, a grab bar at both sides and the back of the toilet. There should also be turning radius of 1.2m and 80cm of clearance between the toilet and the walls. To make it easier to enter the stall, the door should swing out instead of in.
In addition, the sinks and countertops shouldn’t be higher than 85cm and need to have enough clear space underneath them to allow for knee clearance. The plumbing under the sink should be insulated or otherwise protected. The faucets, flush mechanisms for toilets and any knobs or valves in the restroom should be easy to use with one hand. Any hand dryers and paper towel dispensers should also be easy to reach and not higher than 85cm from the floor.