A few weeks ago, my friend and I virtually attended this panel on Disability Rights and Justice. This panel taught me a little about life for people with disabilities before the ADA was passed 30 years ago. However, as I and many of you with disabilities know there is still so much more that needs to be done. The panel I attended as well as content by others with disabilities on social media, specifically Jennie Berry also known as Wheelie_Good_Life on Instagram, inspired me to ponder my response if a business owner ever asked “how can businesses help people with disabilities in addition to accessibility?
When I first had the idea for my blog after finishing my internship years ago, brands had just started considering things like adaptive products and fashion. Years later, we have brands like Tommy Adaptive, Izadaptive, and even Aerie creating some adaptive products. Ulta and a few other beauty brands have also partnered with people with disabilities. I am thrilled to see the fashion industry finally start to pay attention to those of us with disabilities. This is amazing, but we still have a long way to go. The good thing about the fashion industry doing this, besides including its consumers with disabilities, is that other industries are starting to do it as well or at least open to it. Businesses have started to pay more attention to people with disabilities and their needs as consumers, so if someone asked me how they could help as a business owner, this would be my answer, or a part of it anyway.
- Be willing to listen and learn
- Training employees on interactions with people with disabilities
- Hire Us
How Businesses Can Help People With Disabilities
Be Willing To Listen & Learn:
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been somewhere and someone has tried to explain my disability to me and no I don’t mean doctors, I’m talking about strangers. I’ve also lost count of the number of times I’ve heard: “but I saw this person in a wheelchair and they do this, why can’t you?” I’m writing this because there are dozens upon dozens of disabilities that affect people differently and leave them with different capabilities and limitations. Don’t assume things, listen to the kinds of struggles we face so that your business can address these concerns. There can be any number of simple changes you can make in your business that help people with disabilities, be open to hearing these things and implementing them so that you can provide a better experience next time around.Hire Us
I put this second on the list because to me, it’s right up there with learning from people with disabilities. When I first launched this blog, one of my launch posts was about volunteering and virtual internships as a way to build up your resume. The job market is tough for anyone particularly now with the current health crisis, but especially for people with disabilities. There are these misconceptions that if you have a disability, that’s all you are, but that is simply not the case. People with disabilities want to work, but have a hard time finding jobs because if you have a disability and physical one at that, most will think you are not capable of completing job responsibilities.
One way to combat this misconception is to give people with disabilities a chance, interview them, and if they are your best candidate, hire them. As with any happy employee, given the opportunity, they may end being some of your best employees. Since many people are also working from home due to the pandemic, it can make it easier for some people with disabilities to find jobs that fit their skill set.
Training Employees When It Comes To Interacting With People With Disabilities
Train your employees to be respectful and understanding when it comes to interacting with customers with disabilities. Yes, there is a wide spectrum of disabilities and things that come with it as I stated previously, but being respectful and behaving appropriately goes a long way. As a wheelchair user, I appreciate it when the staff is kind and helpful if I have to request something. I remember one time in particular where I went to this restaurant I had been to before and they no longer had tables available unless we wanted to wait an hour. We didn’t so they offered a booth, somewhere I could easily sit and put my wheelchair in the back of the restaurant out of way, but somewhere anyone with me would have easily been able to see it. This was years ago, but I still remember it, there’s a reason for that.
The layout of your business is important, from tables with legs that don’t impede the wheelchair coming up next to it properly in a restaurant, to a register that’s too high, or a line that’s too narrow. The design /layout of your business is important not just to comply with the ADA, but to improve your consumers’ experience. I also know that it’s hard to not generalize when trying to accommodate people with disabilities for your business because you want to make sure that you find a middle ground that works for everyone as much as you can.
Other Things A Business Can Do
- Include Us In Marketing Materials & Media (Magazines, Commercials)
There are a number of things businesses can do to help people with disabilities in addition to accessibility in a location. In recent years, there have been a lot of changes for the better, but there is still more to do. I am happy that the fashion industry has made changes to be more inclusive and is bring disability awareness, I can’t wait to see what is next for this industry in efforts to be inclusive and I wonder what industries will follow in their footsteps. I hope that if you are reading this as a business owner, you take actions to be more inclusive and if you are reading it in general, you share it to bring disability awareness to others who might see it. There are several other actions business owners can take to bring disability awareness, but this is a great starting point.
Do you have any thoughts on what businesses can do to help people with disabilities that you think need to be added to this list? Let me know in the comments below