How Difficult is Shopping With a Disability?
Disabled shopping has become somewhat easier in recent years. This is mostly due to increased awareness of problems created by stores that are not readily accessible to people who are disabled, and to store management that smartly seeks input from disabled people about the things they and their employees can do to improve accessibility. Today, there are an estimated one out of every five people in the United States with some type of disability.
This amounts to an estimated $150 billion dollars per year that is spent by disabled people in stores, restaurants and other businesses. This is such a large sum that it’s smart for retail businesses to pay attention to having accessible, friendly and welcoming stores. This is especially true when the overall access to certain areas of stores can be improved with a few relatively easy fixes.
Helpful Access Features that Disabled People Love to Find Where They Shop
When a person who is disabled sets out for a day of shopping, one of the biggest hopes is that the experience will be a pleasant one. They love to see stores that are aware of their needs and responsive to them. Shopping with disabilities becomes easier when extra attention is paid in these key areas:
– Easy to Access Entrances – Accessible stores happen when there are no round doorknobs, no door hardware that requires extra hand or arm strength to open, and no steps leading to the entrance or inside that create an access issue. The best doorways have ramps, or they are on the same level as the sidewalk. There are push button options to open at least one of the doors, or the door automatically opens once it senses a person there.
– Availability of motorized mart-carts or wheelchairs – Stores that have special motorized carts or an easily accessible wheelchair are a step above businesses that don’t think to provide these extra amenities. Simply being able to enter a store and finding a motorized cart to get through the store quickly and effortlessly makes shopping with disabilities easier.
– Helpful Employees – Employees who are willing to go the extra distance to help, and who do it with a smile are greatly appreciated by everyone, including those who are disabled. Sometimes simply educating employees about dealing with disabled persons is all it takes to increase awareness and to improve the service given by a store. Employees should ideally learn to smile, use eye contact when speaking with a person with a disability, and to be polite and respectful. It’s also appreciated when the employee asks if they can help. This is true of every customer, not just those who are shopping with disabilities.
– Wide Aisles Free From Clutter – Even at the holidays, everyone appreciates going into a store where they can easily get down aisles without displays, pallets of products and other items blocking the pathways. The normal aisle width needed for a pleasant, hassle-free disabled shopping experience is 32 inches.
– Special Buttons at Checkout – These are touchable buttons that are very helpful to customers who are visually impaired. They help these patrons to be able to enter their pin numbers independently, making checking out easier.
– Approaching People With Service Dogs – Teaching employees how to handle approaching someone with a service dog goes a long way to promote extra understanding. Dogs who are assisting a person with a disability are doing their job and should not be touched, petted or otherwise distracted from performing their job. Asking permission first before petting the dog is always the best way to handle the situation.
– Offering to Help Take Purchases to the Car – People with disabilities appreciate the extra offering of help once they’ve made their purchases to get the items to the car. If a retail store can train employees to offer this help and to actually carry through with the offer, it can help to make shopping at the store an easier, more pleasant experience.
– Tolerant Employees Dealing with Customers Using Communication Aids – Making employees aware of the right ways to deal with a patron using a communication device helps to make the shopper feel better and increases goodwill. Understanding and patience are some of the best attributes store employees can have.
Stores that Help People with Disabilities are More Successful
Stores and businesses are smart to make it a priority to interact with people with disabilities by using sensitivity, concern and kindness. They will often see increases in sales and better reviews online as a result. The good word gets around about a particular store that goes out of their way to be inclusive and to make everyone feel welcome. Having accessible stores makes shopping easier for people who are disabled, and can even lead to extra word of mouth advertising among disabled shoppers.
Retail stores that meet or exceed the normal standards of customer service are the ones that end up becoming the most successful. Gaining a reputation for going out of the way to help all customers is the best way for a retail business to increase their bottom line, and it also creates a positive vibe that is noticeable whenever a person shops there, whether that person is disabled or not.
Intangible Qualities Often Make the Biggest Difference
Physical accessibility features are a real asset for retail businesses to have, but what often helps even more are the intangible attributes. These include employees who have been educated about the nuances of interacting with all customers, especially customers with disabilities. The biggest lesson a retail business can impart to its employees is to have respect for shoppers of all ages and abilities.
The positive impact a retail business has by adopting inclusive attitudes is felt not only in financial success, but also in the community. A good reputation can be an elusive thing for a business to gain. Once they have built up a great reputation through excellent treatment of their clientele, that reputation tends to grow, contributing to the business’ prosperity.
Strive for Excellence by Treating All Customers Well
A great reputation for being a business that welcomes disabled shopping is a smart thing for all retailers to strive for. Courteous employees who treat every shopper respectfully make up the foundation of building goodwill in the community. A welcoming, helpful and caring attitude goes a long way. Helpful employees often become the highlight of a shopper’s day, even though they may not realize it at the time. Retail businesses are smart to encourage these positive interactions.