This module is all about some of the barriers your customers might encounter and some of the simple ways to overcome them.
When it comes to physical access, every business has its own particular problems and possibilities. No place will ever be perfectly suited to the requirements of every customer but with some carefully chosen improvements you can make your environment more accessible, safer, and comfortable for a wider range of customers.
Here are some examples of things that can make access easier for a greater number of people.
“Access barriers” in the physical environment are those things which stop a person from getting to where they want to go or doing what they want to do in a comfortable, easy and secure way.
The design of our environment, buildings and facilities often imposes access barriers on certain groups of people, and not only those we think of as “disabled”. Everyone can be inconvenienced by access barriers.
- Flights of stairs (or even one step) are not only an access barrier to wheelchair users, but also to parents with pushers or prams, as well as someone with a walking difficulty or a customer with a heavy suitcase.
- Glass doors or large glazed areas are a barrier – and possible safety hazard – to people who are sight impaired or to anyone whose attention may be distracted when walking close to them.
- Slippery floors in bathrooms are the cause of many accidents, both to disabled and non-disabled people.
- Loose rugs are a tripping hazard for those using mobility devices, those who are unsteady on their feet and young children.
- Sharp corners or glass topped tables can be dangerous to with vision impairment and young children.
It is important to realise that many aspects of your facilities can present access barriers to some customers but with careful adjustments most problems can be significantly reduced, enabling people to move round and use your facilities more easily and so enjoy a better experience.
Make a start by examining your own facilities
By making a simple “walk-through” of your premises with a checklist (and ideally with a disabled visitor or colleague), you can quickly make your own list of possible improvements. Download the Yorke Peninsula Self Audit Checklist (Link)
do you have a designated accessible parking space near your entrance? Can you create larger, clearly marked parking bays for disabled parking, dropped kerb to pavement or path.?
Do your pathways have e a firm, even surface e.g. paving or asphalt rather than gravel, ramps instead of steps. Is there good lighting along the route?
Do you have a porch or shelter from the rain, with good lighting, easy opening door handle and door? These are really useful when people are being dropped off from a car.
Reception: – Do you have a seat available? Is there good lighting, a low counter, walking-stick holder, a hearing loop?
Can you replace round doorknobs with lever type? Is it possible to move furniture to create a large clear area for easy wheelchair movement? Do you have low level hanging rails in cupboards, non-allergenic bedding, a vibrating pillow alarm (available for deaf visitors on request)?
Dining- / breakfast-room / restaurant / bar:
Do you ensure there is adequate passing space between tables, good lighting, colour-contrasting cutlery and plates/tablecloths?
Guest Toilets and bathrooms:
Do you have grab rails, a wheel-in shower, shower seat, non-slip bathmat, colour-contrast doorframes and fittings?
Is there clear signage (as well as the statutory emergency signs) for information, giving directions and locations?
Can you install low-level kitchen facilities including sink, hob, kitchen and work surfaces; pull-out cupboards on wheels; sliding doors (to give more space) and large clear areas in rooms for easy wheelchair movement?
Other facilities, tour operators, and events are also covered in the Self Audit Checklist. Download all of the applicable sections to your business.
Little things can make a huge difference
- Seats in reception
- Large faced clocks
- Large buttoned remote controls
- Lower reception counter
- Walking stick holders
- Accessible paths of travel marked
- Raised toilet flush buttons
- Large type registration forms/menus
- Levers rather than door knobs
- Step free garden paths
- Information and maps to local accessible cafes, bars and attractions
- Arrangements with local equipment hirers
- Straws for drinks including wine tasting venues
Renovations and maintenance
You should always consider making access improvements as part of general renovations or maintenance of your establishment.
With careful choices, you can improve access, for example:
When painting and decorating rooms, think of colour contrast and using non-allergenic materials
When buying new furniture, carpets and fittings, think of colour contrast, moveable furniture and possibly doing away with carpets altogether in some areas
When installing new bathrooms, think of adding a step-free shower, grab rails and possibly a sliding door to increase space
When buying doors and windows, think of how easy they are to open for someone with dexterity problems or a wheelchair user
When re-wiring, see if it is possible to put electrical sockets at a convenient height for people who cannot bend easily and wheelchair users
When buying TVs, telephones, alarm systems and lighting, think about how easy it is for someone with a sight impairment to use them
When re-paving a driveway or entrance, think about making a smooth, step-free approach to the building entrance
When landscaping your property, think about replacing steps with ramped pathways, adding handrails where paths are steep and ensuring safe, non-slip surfaces for pathways
Seek Advice for major works
Bigger access improvement jobs will need expert advice, especially if you consider altering the building construction. If you are thinking of changing bathrooms and toilets or adding ramps or a lift, it would be wise to hire an access auditor.
Don’t get put off
Most businesses do not have the possibility to make major changes to their buildings, as this might be very expensive.
There might be some access problems you cannot fix. But don’t give up!
Even in protected monuments and historical buildings some access improvements can be made.
If you are unable to change certain things, it is important to tell your customers beforehand in your Access Guide or other information material that there are certain access limitations, then they can decide for themselves if the facilities are suitable for them.