6 Interesting Ways to Improve Your Company's Accessibility
The world is slowly becoming more accessible. I’m finding that more and more businesses are updating their facilities in the hopes of encouraging disabled customers to utilize their services. But accessibility is about far more than ramps, bathrooms, Braille signs and parking spaces. Here are eight interesting new ways to make your business or event more accessible.
1. Employ a scent-free policy.
A scent-free policy is a really great idea for businesses who want to make their events accessible to people with a multitude of conditions. People with sensory processing disorders, chemical sensitivities, allergies, asthma, cystic fibrosis and more may be adversely affected severely by “everyday” fragrances. I cannot tell you how embarrassing it is to leave a place because someone has sprayed a strong smelling cleaning product all over the floor.
If your event involves physical activity or people will be getting sweaty, they can wear a scent-less deodorant. Otherwise, people should be asked not to wear anything scented like perfume, cologne or strong hair products. The venue should also be cleaned using scent-free products (which are very easy to find), and no insect repellents or spray paint decorations should be used if they can be smelled. Reducing the smell in an environment opens the doors for people with various disabilities, allowing everyone to enjoy themselves without fear of allergic reactions or sensory overwhelm.
2. Make a quiet space.
This is an especially good idea if your business can become rather loud or crowded. So-called “quiet rooms” are gaining popularity amongst new businesses. The people who use these spaces may have a variety of medical conditions, the most well-known being autism spectrum disorder (ASD). People with ASD may be very prone to sensory overload, which can lead to panic attacks or meltdowns. A quiet room can be a savior for people on the spectrum, enabling them to attend events that had previously been accessible only to neurotypical people.
People with other mental or physical illnesses and disabilities may also benefit from a quiet space. People with various anxiety disorders, ADHD or psychotic disorders can find a quiet, distraction-free space to be a necessary escape from difficult situations. Conditions like ME/CFS, EDS, narcolepsy and others can also make loud or overstimulating situations exhausting and can warrant the use of a “safe” space to alleviate certain symptoms.
A quiet space does not necessarily need to be a whole room if that isn’t an option. It could be a seating area outside with “quiet” signs up, or just a bench situated away from large groups of people.
3. Use Dyslexie font.
The Dyslexie font was designed by Christian Boer, a graphic designer who wanted to make a font he found easier to read with his dyslexia. One in five students has a language based disability, with dyslexia being the most common. The dyslexie font has larger gaps between the letters, larger space gaps, bold letters at the beginning of sentences, and makes obvious differentiations between letters. There is no concrete evidence supporting the usefulness of this font, however many individuals find it does help them. Even if it doesn’t help everyone with dyslexia, it won’t hurt anyone to use the font for your signs, menus or other written materials.
4. Have a sharps container.
Lots of places have sharps containers in their bathrooms now. Legally this area is slightly more complex than some of my other suggestions. I won’t go into too much detail around the laws as they vary from country to country. A lot of people with chronic illnesses utilize injected medications. Some people need to have medications through infusions, inject insulin or use Epi-pens. There are a lot of situations in which needles must be used for medical purposes, and being forced to carry used syringes in plastic bags in your purse is definitely not ideal. A sharps bin can be a great asset to your business and really makes an event more accessible.
5. Consider making your event a silent one.
You may have heard of silent discos. In these events, people are given headphones which play music for them to dance to at a volume of their choosing. If you don’t want to dance or have music, you can just remove the headphones. This principle can be applied to a lot of events, such as office parties. It greatly cuts down on noise production, which is important to a lot of people who find it difficult to deal with overwhelming noise.
6. Hire people with disabilities.
This is probably the most important aspect of accessibility. In an ideal world, people with disabilities will be viewed as being no different from everyone else. To achieve this means you must be not only opening the doors for disabled customers, but also for disabled employees. Unemployment rates for people with disabilities are way too high. While some of us can’t work for medical reasons, there are so many who can but are never given the opportunity. A truly accessible company supports everyone, regardless of ability or perceived disability.
Photo provided by contributor.