There are a number of simple and inexpensive ways to make your business more disability friendly and you need to be aware of current regulations covering accessibility. Let’s take a look at important considerations to ensure your business is accessible.

The facts:

  • Almost 4 million Australians have a disability.
  • About 50 per cent of people aged over 55 have difficulty with their mobility, hearing or vision.
  • By 2050 more than 25 per cent of the population will be over 65.
  • If you add families, friends and colleagues the number of people affected by disability is even greater.
Source: Australian Human Rights Commission

Given that each of these people is a potential customer, client or employee, it’s important your workplace design provides adequate access to your building and services.

There are a number of simple and inexpensive ways to make your business more disability friendly and you need to be aware of current regulations covering accessibility. Let’s take a look at important considerations to ensure your business is accessible.

Make it easy for people to access your premises

  • Provide a level entry to your premises. Where this is not possible, you may need to consider a ramp.
  • Ensure the door handles are at a height that is easy for all people to reach. The standards state that the handle needs to be between 900 and 1100 millimetres above the floor.
  • Make the door easier to open by making it lighter or automatic, and ensure that the handle itself is easy to use
  • Make the doorway wide enough to allow a person with a walking frame, or wheelchair, to pass through with ease. There is a minimum width under current regulations.
  • Avoid thick rubber mats or carpeting which may prove to be a hazard at the entry. In cases where mats are required, tapered edges will make using a walker or cane safer and reduce trip hazards. You may consider a contrasting edge to the map to make it more visible.
  • Ensure you provide wide unobstructed aisles, avoiding stacks of inventory or other obstacles.

Making it easier for those with vision impairments

  • Use different coloured or patterned flooring or walls to differentiate departments, or use different textures of carpet/flooring for tactile senses.
  • Use blinds or shades on large front windows that have morning or afternoon sun to reduce glare. Glare can make it difficult for a person with some visual impairment to move about safely.
  • Signage could include Braille, particularly on doorways in common spaces and on shelves in retail environments.
  • Retailers could also use easy-to-find aisle numbers and common items listed at the end of each aisle in large format signs with Braille.
  • Where practical, items could be stocked in alphabetical order, such as canned goods.

For the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

  • A writing pad at the registers for staff and patrons to write on when communicating with deaf customers.
  • Consider the introduction of a Hearing loop to assist.
  • Install flashing smoke and fire alarms to alert a deaf customer of emergencies.

Many of these items are required under current regulations and therefore you should contact an architect or accessibility consultant if you are concerned about your compliance.