According to the Australian Network on Disability, over 4.4 million Australians suffer from some form of disability. Of these, 2.1 million are of working age, and around 4.4 per cent use a wheelchair — which translates to a little less than 200,000 individuals.
People with disabilities usually face several challenges affecting their mobility. This is because sometimes certain infrastructure does not adequately address the unique needs of people with disability.
Even with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) (DDA), which makes it illegal to ‘discriminate against a person because of disability when providing goods, services or facilities, or access to public premises’, some business establishments are still unable to comply with such conditions.
Creating A Wheelchair Accessible Business
Now, if you’re one such business, it won’t be surprising if you get complaints from people with disability, their families, friends and other relations. Even if your oversight is unintentional, such complaints may cause you to lose customers and perhaps even lead to an anti-discrimination lawsuit.
For people using wheelchairs, most of the challenges they face involve access to premises or facilities. To address such challenges, the Australian Human Rights Commission rolled out tips to help businesses reduce their likelihood of facing discrimination complaints by improving the accessibility of their premises.
Tips to Improve and Maintaining Wheelchair Access
If you’re looking to make your establishment wheelchair-accessible, consider the following tips to create a welcoming and suitable experience for your customers and staff:
1. Post clear signage
If the main entrance to your establishment is not accessible by wheelchair but has an alternate accessible entrance elsewhere, you need to post clear signage indicating this.
You should include the International Symbol of Accessibility prominently at the wheelchair-accessible entrance. Signage there should also contain important information on access, parking facilities and other services.
If you have a website, make sure it contains this information so that people using a wheelchair that may go to your place of business are better informed.
2. Keep passageways clear and well-lit
Wheelchair-accessible walkways and parking facilities should be free from obstructions, clutter and dirt to allow for easy access. If there are bushes, trees and fresh plants and flower arrangements in your premises, ensure these are clipped and maintained.
Avoid placing temporary displays or goods in a way that obstructs aisles and other passageways. There should always be continuous routes for wheelchairs within your premises to allow customers to move freely.
Provide dedicated parking spaces for people with disabilities.
To make your place easy to move and navigate, maintain a continuous, accessible path to and from certain sections of your premises, such as those leading to the parking area or any bathroom.
There shouldn’t be any low-hanging hazards or overgrown bushes that can obstruct or interfere with the smooth movement of wheelchair-bound users or people using other mobility aids. These areas should also be well-lit to help people using wheelchairs navigate them efficiently and easily.
3. Consider furniture and fixture accessibility
Businesses that provide tables or bar seating must ensure their furniture meet appropriate accessibility dimensions for wheelchair-bound users.
For example, tables that provide space underneath the tabletop that’s 76 centimetres wide, 43 centimetres deep and 69 centimetres high, plus a top that measures anywhere from 71 to 87 centimetres, would be considered wheelchair-accessible.
Additionally, check counter heights, as well as the position of lift buttons, EFTPOS facilities, door handles, etc. These should all be within reach of a wheelchair-bound person.
If you have a store or shop, your designated wheelchair-accessible register or checkout lane should always be open during business hours.
4. Install access-friendly doors and pathways
Elderly people, people that use a wheelchair and those using mobility aids can find certain types of doors difficult to open, especially heavy doors. What you can do to resolve this is to adjust the closers so the doors are easier to push or open.
A better solution would be to install automated disabled access doors that allow for the effortless passage of all people.
You should also look into whether your automatic door and access widths comply with Australian Standards 1428. For doors, there should be a clear opening with a minimum wheelchair accessible door width of 850 millimetres or 85 centimetres, which is considered a wheelchair-accessible door width.
Business establishments should have entrance and exit passageways that feature an access ramp. These are not only helpful for people using wheelchairs but also for those who are pushing carts, strollers and other wheeled items.
A ramp can also be installed in areas that are accessible through stairs, although a better alternative would be elevators, especially for tall buildings.
5. Keep public facilities accessible at all times
Avoid locking any bathroom or lifts that are supposed to be accessible to the public during business hours. You should also ensure accessible bathrooms can be easily located through the use of a continuous, accessible path.
Also, do not use accessible change rooms or your business bathroom as a storage area.
Inside bathrooms, moveable objects such as wastebaskets and rubbish bins should not obstruct spaces near the main and cubicle doors. Also, when it comes to accessible wheelchair friendly stalls, keep the area around the toilet and under the sink clear at all times.
6. Make your establishment a safe space for wheelchair users
Maintaining your premises to keep it a safe space available for everyone, especially for people with disabilities, involves cleaning and scrubbing surfaces so they don’t become worn or slippery.
You should also have a clear evacuation procedure specifically for persons with disabilities in case of an emergency. These should be included in your emergency evacuation plan.
All employees must know the procedure by heart.
7. Be considerate and sensitive
Always use the right language in your signage and provide clear instructions.
In the event that a person with a disability asks you to change a policy or requests additional assistance, give yourself time to consider it and make yourself available. Check if the request corresponds to any specific legal requirements concerning people with disability.
Also, if it is a reasonable request and has the potential to help you improve your services, why not grant it?
8. Find alternatives
Making your business premises more accessible usually requires some investment.
If your business is not accessible and may not be so for some time due to financial constraints, offer alternative services that will allow you to fulfil the needs of your wheelchair-using customers.
You can offer personal shopping, home visits or home delivery services as good alternatives.
Better Access, Better Business
Ready to make your business premises accessible?
Go Doors in Perth can help if you need automatic doors that are compliant with wheelchair access width requirements and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) access standards.
Our products are ideal for use in schools, offices, nursing homes, public toilets or residential properties. They can be installed even in existing entrances.
Go Doors systems work with access control systems, actuation push buttons, microwave and infrared devices and intercom hardware.
If you need more information about our products, please contact us today.