Hilary Stephenson, managing director of inclusive design agency Sigma, offers her tips for making retail showrooms more accessible
Accessibility within public spaces is something that many of us take for granted.
However, for millions of people across the UK with disabilities, even simple trips to the shops can currently be filled with unnecessary difficulty, confusion and apprehension.
This was evident in our recent research, which highlighted a worrying lack of accessibility awareness across a range of UK venues.
We found a quarter of businesses could not accommodate for those in wheelchairs, and a third were unable to accommodate for those with a cognitive impairment like autism.
Initiatives such as Purple Tuesday are a fantastic step forward for the 13.9million people in the UK of ranging ability and condition.
However, inclusion should be an everyday consideration – it’s not enough to simply be inclusive for one day a year and leave it at that.
But what measures should be taken to ensure full accessibility for all shoppers?
Provide services for shoppers with cognitive impairment – create quiet zones. Implement a lanyard system so staff can identify those who may need additional support.
Ensure there is wheelchair access throughout the showroom, ensuring that products do not clutter the shop floor and impede this.
This can include supporting grab rails and a lowered sink and hand dryer area in bathroom facilities.
Adapt for the blind by providing braille signs, bring guide dog friendly, and having trained staff on hand to guide customers through the shop if needed.
Help those with hearing loss by ensuring that any messaging announced over loudspeakers – for example price promotions or customer notices – are clearly communicated in other ways.
Implement hearing loops and ensure that all staff are speaking clearly when conversing with customers.
Another priority is to train all staff members to understand customers with ranging abilities.
Enrolling employees on to courses, such as the National Disability Authority’s (NDA) e-learning module is a quick and easy way to do this.
Ensure staff are trained on:
- Defining what “disability is”
- Outlining what language they should use when talking with or about people with disabilities
- Explaining how employees can improve their own practices to be more inclusive of people with disabilities.
Take a look at the five tips on how to light a showroom for full effect.