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Accessibility Is Good Business

Posted by: George Swift on Tuesday, October 18, 2022

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and a good time for businesses and other organizations to take stock of their accessibility to those who are disabled. As one who has relied on a wheelchair or a scooter the last several years as a result of diabetes, I have come not only to appreciate but also rely on accessibility to businesses, offices, transportation, and institutions. While there are many forms of disabilities, the concentration in this article is on mobility limitations. In July of 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed into law the
Americans with Disabilities Act. In those 32 years since there have been many improvements which allow those with mobility issues to gain access. The title directs businesses to make “reasonable modifications” to their usual ways of doing things when serving people with disabilities. Some historic buildings are “grandfathered in” but the law states that reasonable accommodations must be made to allow access. Parking is a major barrier and much has improved in this area. Businesses are required to have at least one accessible parking space for
every fifteen places. At least one of those must be van accessible. Accessible parking must have an “aisle” next to the space of at least five feet to allow for those in wheelchairs to load and unload. Van accessible spaces require an “aisle” of eight feet to allow those in vans with ramps room to load and unload. Many businesses have these spaces but do not have enough room for those with side ramps to enter and exit their vehicles. Lines marking off the loading space are usually blue but sometimes are yellow and should be on the passenger side of the
vehicle. The areas with the lines are prohibited parking areas yet some folks park on them, blocking entry and exit from a van. There are many folks with handicapped parking tags. However, if you enter a parking lot and there is a regular space adjacent to an accessible space, please park in that. While it is legal to park in van accessible spaces if there is a regular space or accessible space please leave the van accessible space for those who need it. I have also encountered entrances to businesses that have proper parking, but entrance from a narrow sidewalk does not leave enough room for entry as the door does not open wide enough to accommodate a scooter or wheelchair from the sidewalk. A step going into a business is another barrier. Those in wheelchairs or scooters cannot access the business with a step up. Ramps that wind into buildings should also be wide enough to allow for turns. 


Restroom access and narrow aisles in stores can also be barriers. A complete ADA guide to accessibility for small businesses can be found at: https://www.ada.gov/reachingout/smbusgd.pdf

Tax breaks may be available for businesses which make ADA improvements. Only until you need accessible parking and entrances can you appreciate the necessity. President Bush and Congress had amazing vision and courage to implement the ADA Act. I suspect that businesses have lost customers because there was not easy access. This month might be a good time to do a “check-up” to see if your business needs improvements in accessibility. When word gets out that a business is open to all, expect sales to increase. And you might find some new employees, too.

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