30 April 2018

Easy steps to make your cafe, restaurant or shop more accessible

Wheelchair sign; white on blue background

Did you know there are 13.3 million deaf and disabled people in the UK, many with hidden disabilities?

You probably don’t want to exclude disabled people from your cafe, restaurant, shop or service but perhaps you don’t realise you’re doing so.

We give you some advice on easy steps you can take to make sure you’re not creating unnecessary barriers…

  • Is your door easy to open? Is there a big step? Do you have a ramp people can use?
  • Are your tables or aisles too close together for wheelchair-users and people with pushchairs? Is it tricky to get around?
  • Is your counter too high for wheelchair-users making paying and choosing things tricky?
  • Can your adjust the height of your tables to accommodate different height wheelchairs?
  • Are toilets clean and well signposted? Don’t use them as a broom cupboard!
  • Can you reduce background music and remove speakers from behind the bar or counter? This makes it easier for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Can you keep one table away from a speaker and designate it a quiet corner?
  • Provide good lighting: this can make a big difference for people who lip-read.
  • Do you have a portable hearing loop? These are a great help for deaf and hard of hearing people, particularly at counters and desks.
  • High ceilings and hard surfaces can make it difficult to hear. Use tablecloths, rugs, carpets and cushions to absorb noise, even if just one table/area.
  • The scraping of chairs on hard floors can be excruciating for hearing aid wearers. Buy some cheap felt pads to put under chair legs to soften the sound.
  • Make signage and labelling large and clear.
  • Make assistance dogs welcome, and remember – don’t distract them when they’re working.
  • Are notices, menus and shop info available in accessible formats such as Braille, Large Print and Audio? Are they on the website?
  • Consider removing A-boards which can be a danger for blind people (and also an obstruction for wheelchair-users). Look into using wall-mounted signage instead.
  • If your customer is blind and needs guiding, let them take your arm – don’t just grab theirs. Tell them about any steps or hazards in good time.
  • Think about the layout of your space—is it cluttered? Do you have lots of baskets and items on the floor?
  • If you have a shop, it’s also useful and welcoming to provide a chair for people to have a break and sit for a while.

We hope these tips help you think about accessibility in your business. Of course, letting people know what facilities you have before they visit is also a great help – so keep your website up to date so they can plan ahead.

Have you got any more advice for shops, cafes, and restaurants to be accessible? if so, let us know in the comments below…

Photo by Oliver Cole on Unsplash

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