Develop accessible premises, products and services
Ian Streets, Managing Director of About Access, explores the parallels that apply in the development of accessible premises, products and services
When it comes to accessibility, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, but certain scenarios consistently present challenges regardless of environment, and there are also solutions that can mitigate or even eliminate problems.
A constant that applies at all levels is the benefit of approaching accessibility with an open mind and knowing that people are different, as are the businesses and organizations they visit, frequent and for which they working.
These differences are what we seek to identify and address in one of our current projects. Working with Rick Williams of Freeney Williams – one of Europe’s leading disability and diversity consultancies – we produce definitive guides for clients operating in a variety of sectors to show how they can make their premises, products and services more accessible.
Our approach is unique, based on years of successful experience, and broad enough for clients to apply when trying to help people in a wide range of roles, an assortment of buildings, and even different jurisdictions and regulatory regimes. in the world market.
It is based on the understanding that, wherever they are in the world, what people with disabilities want are the same opportunities as able-bodied people.
We work with clients who operate internationally in pharmaceuticals, retail, financial media and more and want to standardize accessibility globally in their fields.
How to create an accessible room?
The locations we are considering include offices, retail outlets, manufacturing facilities and hospitality centers. For each of them, we provide information on how to make the things people need accessible and we also educate customers about accessibility to help them embed sustainability into their organization.
Our contribution encourages customers to visualize an end-to-end journey through their premises, starting before visitors even arrive by providing them with information on the type of measures and functionalities put in place to make the site accessible and inquiring about any other conditions. The journey concludes with consideration of an emergency evacuation which, of course, is unlikely but essential to address.
Welcome on arrival is important and should include information on how to move around the property and use the facilities. This must include indicating the locations of accessible toilets and, depending on the nature and duration of the visit, this may include directing people to catering and leisure areas. It should certainly cover the provision of information on emergency evacuation procedures.
We offer practical diagrams showing how things like reception desks, stairs, doors and toilets should be designed and installed to help make a place accessible.
In a best practice environment, we hope to see step-free access, automatic sliding doors and acoustic loop systems at service points. We would expect to hear clear, concise, and precise voice announcements in the elevators.
After that, it’s back to sustainability – by inviting written, verbal, or follow-up email feedback, the company is in a better position to review and update its accessibility features and evolve over time towards business-as-usual inclusion of accessibility in thinking and delivery.
Offer flexible and accessible premises
A key point in all of this is to develop a common understanding of the wide range of functions which, when not working effectively for a person, can lead to difficulties in accessing services. And to anticipate issues with physical function, mental health, sensory issues, neurodifference, and learning disabilities, it’s important to recognize that they can affect different people in different ways.
The resulting unpredictability means that planned and fixed solutions will not always be appropriate. Sometimes a person will have a need for access that can only be met by an adjustment provided by a member of staff at the store, restaurant, recreation center or elsewhere. Therefore, staff must be able to provide assistance confidently and professionally.
It is always useful to remind companies why we are doing this. For starters, there’s the law – companies don’t want to be faced with a discrimination complaint and the costs that come with it.
And then there are the business opportunities that can be lost. In the UK, there are an estimated 14 million people with disabilities. One in four families has a member with a disability and the spending power of people with disabilities and their carers is £274 billion.
75% of people with disabilities have quit a business because of poor accessibility
Figures from Purple Tuesday, the organization which measures the potential contribution of people with disabilities to the UK economy, show that 75% of people with disabilities, along with their family and friends, have walked away from a business due to poor accessibility or poor customer service.
Nor can you easily escape your responsibilities by selling online. The Click-Away Pound survey in 2019 reported that more than four million people abandoned a retail website due to obstacles they found, and took business with them from a worth £17.1 billion.
Our approach shows companies how to achieve a consistently high level of accessibility across their operations, demonstrating a commitment to diversity and inclusion and potentially ensuring the kind of performance that will silence skeptics.
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