Why usually? Simply put, it’s a positive experience if I’m shopping in a store that’s physically accessible and the employees are courteous and helpful. During my own shopping experiences, I’ve noticed that sometimes people, particularly those who work in retail, are uncomfortable around people with disabilities. Maybe they don’t know how to act or what to say. Sometimes they try a little too hard to be helpful.
According to the National Organization on Disability, there are more than 54 million Americans living with disabilities. So, one out of every five people in the country is looking for accessible grocery stores, shopping malls, etc. This market grows larger if the 78 million baby boomers in the country are included (maybe they don’t all require, but they benefit from accessibility).
Accessibility – both physically and attitudinally – makes good business sense (and cents). If you’re a business owner, keep the following tips in mind to maintain and attract more customers with disabilities!
1. First, and most importantly, people with disabilities, like everyone else, deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. We have different personalities and different preferences – if you’re not sure what we’d prefer, just ask!
2. When you meet someone with a disability, it’s appropriate to shake hands (even if a person has limited hand use). Simply touch hands to acknowledge his or her presence, if necessary.
3. Some terms may have sounded acceptable in the past, like “handicapped”, “crippled” or “wheelchair-bound” are no longer accepted by people with disabilities. Remember people-first language: “person with a disability” or “Trisston uses a wheelchair”.
4. If you’re talking to a person in a wheelchair for more than a few minutes, try to sit down so you’re at eye-level with that person. Also, don’t lean on that person’s wheelchair – it’s considered an invasion of personal space.
5. Always ask before you assist a person with a disability, and then listen carefully to any instructions. Don’t interfere with a person’s full control over his or her assistive devices. Ask before you push someone who uses a wheelchair, for example. Likewise, never move assistive devices out of reach of their owners with out permission.
6. Be considerate and patient if it takes a person with a disability extra time to complete a task.
There you have it, my helpful guide to making people with disabilities comfortable, whatever the setting. Now if you will excuse me, I am going to hop into my BraunAbility Entervan and go shopping. I think I hear a sale calling my name!