For people with disabilities, moving around in public places can prove a challenging task. Curbs, thresholds, stairs, sidewalk gratings, obstructions, and narrow passages are some of the major barriers that those with mobility issues face. The Americans Disability Act (ADA) requires all state and local governments and businesses and non-profit organizations that serve the public (called ‘covered entities’) to allow people with disabilities access into all areas where members of the public are allowed to go. Building design should be functional enough to accommodate the needs of people with different abilities and provide them with complete accessibility.
Here are some of the ways in which public places or buildings can be made more accessible to people with disabilities:
- Place clear signs or posters in buildings, at heights that can be easily seen. For buildings with several entrances, it is important to post a sign with a wheelchair symbol outside the accessible entrance or entrances. However, if the doorway is not accessible, post a wheelchair sign pointing towards the entrance.
- Display a map of the store or property indicating the exact location of entrances, elevators, accessible paths, ramps, restrooms, and service/information center.
- While creating store brochures, handouts or maps, highlight prominent accessibility features or special accommodations your business is offering for persons with mobility issues. Put up large print directions, informational sheets and menus for your clients.
- Make a clipboard available for those who may need to fill out forms or sign their name. In stores where counters are built too high and a person in a wheelchair cannot be seen, install a bell on the counter so that people can ring if they need any assistance.
- In restaurants, it is common that lighting may be reduced in some cases to create a special ambience. Have a flashlight available for seniors who might require more light for carrying out their tasks. Also, keep the background music and other environmental sounds low so that it won’t create unnecessary distractions or interfere with communication.
- It is important for the staff and maintenance people to understand the exact meaning of accessibility. A misplaced waste basket or even a chair by the side of elevator call button can make even the most up-to-date facility inaccessible for seniors.
- If your store or place of business is located in a building that is not accessible, offer alternative services for older adults. Meet clients at an accessible location.
- Have chairs with arms inside your store for use by the elderly.
People with mobility disabilities have equal opportunities and existing facilities are required to remove architectural barriers where such removal is readily possible. Modern elevators have various features that make them ADA-compliant including doorways that are wide enough and stay open long enough to allow persons using wheelchairs to go through easily, audible signals to announce floors and up/down direction, Braille signs and easily reachable controls, and more.