Accessibility has always been a crucial part of running any business and the necessity for changes has only grown as the years have passed. From something as simple as installing a ramp for access, to changing the layout of your shop or including accommodations for hidden disabilities, there are a number of things you can and should do to improve the shopping experience for everyone. These changes don’t have to be costly but will ensure that you, your customers and your employees can all move and exist in the space without facing problems. To help you get started, we’ve put together a guide to some of the most common and easiest changes you can make for your shop:
Protect You and Your Customers
First things first, having the right protections in place for your customers, your employees and your business will give people the peace of mind that they are safe. Public Liability Insurance, for example, provides you with financial support and your customers with peace of mind that if an injury or accident were to occur, they could make a claim safely.
Similarly, Employer’s Liability Insurance is a must-have for any business and will protect your employees in the case of accidents or injuries. If poor workplace accessibility has caused an injury to any of your employees, an insurance policy will protect them and your business through legal proceedings and compensatory costs. Shop insurance can also protect your buildings and contents as well as the existing stock in cases of accidents. However, the best thing you can do to protect all of the above is to make some key accessibility changes:
Think About The Entrance
The entrance is the first thing that any customer – and often employees – will come to. If it looks inaccessible from the very start, it’s unlikely that those who need additional support may bypass your store completely. Accessible changes could be as simple as installing a ramp alongside the steps, adding a button to open the door, or even a doorbell to ring for assistance if you are unable to do the above.
Having access to support is a core factor that many shops can overlook – even if you have ramps and plenty of space, some shoppers do require extra assistance, whether that’s physical help to get into the store or support moving around the space if they would otherwise be overwhelmed or confused. Having this doorbell or button at the entrance means they can access the help they need without having to navigate through your shop to find a member of staff first.
Consider These Physical Changes
Physical changes to the shop floor and even the back areas can help to improve the shopping experience for all. Whether it’s wheelchair access or changes to signage to include braille or even the layout of your products to prevent overwhelming those who may be neurodivergent, simple changes can make a lot of difference. Physical features you could consider changing include:
- Steps – Are there alternatives to steps? If your shop is on more than one floor, do you have a lift or other means of accessing the next floor without the use of stairs?
- Space – Is there enough room in the shop to accommodate a wheelchair? Equally, could two people walk side by side if a shopper needs physical support? Are there pieces of furniture or stock obstructing the pathways?
- Shelving/Product Accessibility – Are your products accessible to everyone? Are some products on the top shelf with no support available to access them? All products should be clearly labelled for those that may not be able to reach or see higher shelves, and staff should always be on hand to provide assistance.
- Signs – All signage throughout the shop should be clear, and printed large enough to read and braille should also be introduced.
- Lighting – without proper lighting, the signs and products can’t always be seen or processed by those with some accessibility needs. Having good lighting with easy-access switches or automatic lights should be considered.
While shoppers are an important consideration for accessibility, employees can’t be overlooked. They work at your store day in, day out and may need support to perform their job effectively and safely. Assistive devices and technology can go a long way to providing that support. Some devices you could consider include:
- Speech recognition devices
- Assistive listening devices
- Sign language applications
- Quiet spaces where employees can go undisturbed when needed to decompress
- Braille displays and keyboards
- Colour-coded keyboards and/or ergonomic alternatives
- Speak to your employees and work out what they need from you – this is the best way to ensure they have exactly what they need.
Equipment throughout the shop can benefit both employees and customers depending on what it is and where it is, but should never be overlooked. Height-adjustable desks or stands could help to provide employees with easier access to stock or computers, while customers could also benefit from being able to access more stock without support, offering them independence in the shopping experience. These can usually be operated with the touch of a button.
Change Your Check-Out Desk
The check-out desk is a core part of your shop and the customer’s shopping experience and can’t be overlooked when it comes to accessibility. The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 requires that the desk is accessible and this includes sections that are lower-down, making it possible for a wheelchair user to not only reach their things but be able to make contact with the staff member behind the desk. This also includes having room underneath the desk enough to fit their legs and chair underneath comfortably, for both employees and in shops where paperwork may need to be filled out.
Accessibility is a core and important part of running any business and hopefully, this guide has helped you put together a game plan for creating a more accessible environment for all in your store. For more information about how our insurance policies can support you, your customers and your employees, get in touch with Ashburnham Insurance on 0800 1696137.