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5 Ways to Make your Business more Accessible

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Having an accessible business is important. Ontario has it’s own accessibility act in place to make sure that businesses are doing the best they can to make their customers feel comfortable. There are many barriers in our environment that make life more difficult for people with disabilities, so ensure that you’re doing what you can to accommodate them.

Whether you have a store, restaurant, or online shop, your space needs to be made accessible. Here are 5 ways to do so:

1. Make your shop accessible. Make sure that there is no barrier at the entrance on your building. The step people need to take when entering your doorway is a barrier in itself, meaning you should get a ramp for your entrance. Check out The StopGap Foundation, a charitable organization in Toronto that works on increasing awareness and bridging the gap to make your store more accessible for everyone.

Another way to make your store more wheelchair friendly is have enough space for a wheelchair to maneuver through. If you have a cafe or rOpen Shopestaurant, provide room for a wheelchair at an accessible table. Additionally, have clean aisles. Regardless of a person’s abilities, there needs to be free floor space without any obstacles creating hazards. You also need to have a policy on service animals and have clear bathroom signs. If people can access all areas of your business, they are more likely to have an enjoyable experience and become a returning customer.

Opt in for accessible parking too. If this isn’t something you can control, clearly state on your website, Google, and your 411.ca listing, where the closest accessible parking is located.

Accessibility in a physical environment goes beyond doorways, ramps, and parking. Brainstorm of additional ways to allow people who are disabled to have full access to your business, so you’re never showing anyone the door.

2. Keep the space properly lit. It’s important to get the lighting right in your store so that it best accommodates customers and employees alike. Some stores like to stay on trend and keep the shop dimly lit and restaurants like to have ambient mood lighting, but that may make it difficult for customers to read menus or find their way around. Provide bright, consistent lighting directly overhead and around the floorboard can make your store easy to navigate and the products you offer easily spotted.

3. Make long lines easy.

LadyNot everyone can stand in line for long, so work around it. If you see a line starting to build, pull an extra staff member up to cash. If that isn’t a possibility, try having a line where people can take a number and be called up. Not only does this make your business more accessible, long lines deter purchases and can cause customers to leave without buying anything, or stop them from entering your store at all (think about how many times you’ve picked Starbucks because the Tim Horton’s line is way too long). This includes online shopping too. Ensure that your checkout process is quick and simple. The majority of customers will abandon their purchase if they have technical problems while checking out. Make sure that your checkout process is smooth for any user.

If you’re like us and want to be on the forefront of the shopping world, check this out. Amazon is testing a new pilot project where people can just walk into their store, pick up items, put them in a bag and go. Everything will be done through a smartphone without any cashiers or lines.

4. Make your website accessible. Your website it usually the first point of contact between your business and new customers. It’ll be easier for users to become customers if your website is accessible. Make the text, images, structure, and sounds accessible for those who have disabilities. You can make images available with audio descriptions or offer text-alternative options. Twitter and Facebook both rolled out changes earlier this year making their websites more accessible. Twitter announced that it will be offering its own alternative text feature for images where the users that select the option, will be able to include up to 420 characters for the photos description. Facebook created a tool that allows visually impaired or blind users using a screen reader on an iOS device to be able to hear more in depth descriptions of images popping up on their feed. These are both prime examples of online businesses take steps toward being more accessible to users.

5. Design an accessible logo.

Logo DesignWhen designing a logo, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure accessibility for everyone. The colours need to contrast enough so that those who are colour blind or visually impaired can still see it and make out the details. Simplicity will aid in accessibility as well. If you’re putting your logo up online, check to make sure you’re meeting the standards of display for people with disabilities. Finally, make sure your logo translates well to other mediums. Even if your business is online only, you’ll never know when you’ll need to print an invoice with your logo on it or if you’ll want it embroidered on a jacket down the line. If you are looking to get your logo printed on business cards, pens, mugs, gym bags, and more, make sure to check out our Entrepreneurs Club partner, Vistaprint so we can set you up with a discount.

As a small business owner, building relationships with customers is important to continue improving your business. Make sure that you continue to learn about the new ways you can make your business more accessible, and that you are following the Accessibility Standard for Customer Service and for how you treat your employees. Once your business is accessible, spread the word and let people know. You can do this but picking up a free online listing on 411.ca, and writing about your accessibility in the description. Not only will you attracting new people to your store but you’ll be setting an example for other businesses.

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Anastasia graduated with a BA Honors Communications Degree and is currently pursuing her passion for writing and helping small businesses succeed.