The trouble is, it’s different for everyone – some prefer modern, some traditional, some want alcohol in abundance, others want a quiet cup of tea.
In this day and age, our ever-present internet solves the problem – we search, look at photos, menus, maps, details. Then decide. Then book. Simple.
Unless you have any non-average access requirements. Then it’s endless phone calls with lists of questions, waiting for calls back because they aren’t sure, and hoping the information eventually given is relatively accurate and not missing anything essential. Very few websites have good accessibility info, but it would make SO much difference to us customers with disabilities.
It doesn’t surprise me. I am fully aware that for many business owners, especially small businesses, disabled access is a complicated, technical, confusing and expensive legal thing. And having sat through a ‘Disability Awareness Course’ and ‘Equality training day’ – quite frankly, I understand why. It’s actually easy to write access information.
But I bring you good tidings!
Here’s my quick and easy guide:
- Write a bullet point list of everything you have deliberately done to assist with accessibility.
- Look at the key areas of your premises: e.g. external path/route to entrance, entrance door, toilet, bar/restaurant area, reception etc and describe the access in literal terms, paying special attention to the floor surfaces and space – e.g. “One 6 inch step to front door, with grab rails. Portable ramp available. 1 inch high threshold between entrance hall and restaurant, accessible bathroom*, crazy paving path to entrance, staff available to assist with access.”
- Combine the two lists into bullet point descriptions. Avoid flouncy words and attempts to make it sound technical and politically correct – your average individual with non-standard access requirements wants the info not the jargon.
- Put the list on your website.
- Add photos. Lots of photos. Not pretty, posed photos – but practical ones which clearly show the path surface, or the toilet layout, or the amount of space between tables etc. Every person will have slightly different abilities and needs, and letting them see for themselves whether your venue will work for them is the best way to approach it.
- Add a phone number to contact with questions or feedback.
- Any questions or feedback you get on accessibility, ask yourself “would this be useful for others to know” – if so, add it to your accessibility info list, making sure you keep it up to date with any layout changes. (You won’t pick up everything relevant first time. Just keep learning, using your common sense, and listening to your customers).
- Wherever negative issues are highlighted, use your problem solving skills. You might be surprised at how cheap and effective solutions can be.
Voila, you will have made my day and there is a good chance you will have got my custom.
Note: from a wheelie perspective: gravel is evil. Think ‘wading through treacle’. If you have a gravel carpark of pathways, please please make a more solid area for wheelies!
Even if some things are not ‘ideal’ in terms of access, don’t hide it – describe it. Because you might be surprised to find that when people know about it and are prepared, it is workable for more people than you thought.
I recently went to a fabulous restaurant (my mouth waters every time I talk about it!) – in an old country house (Fallowfields, Oxfordshire). They’d had no accessibility info on the website. I thought access would be poor. It wasn’t. Some parts weren’t ideal – other parts were perfect. I got chatting to the owner and got the impression he has a similar ‘disability awareness training’ experience to me. He couldn’t rebuild the rambling old building to be a perfect wheelie heaven, so it it couldn’t be accessible. It almost felt as if he was ashamed and depressed by the lack of access. We chatted, and I think he realised that I, as a wheelchair using individual could access everywhere I needed (the restaurant seating layout was the best I have ever visited.) and things could be even better with relatively little expenditure (an external light, a tiny portable ramp for the 2inch back door step, tidying up the accessible bathroom and some minor path repairs). The outcome was that the above procedure was followed. He wrote a list of stuff deliberately done, and stuff planned as a result of my visit (much of which is already done). I added a few things I’d noticed and appreciated like the low height reception desk. AWESOME! I could actually see the receptionist when I spoke to her!
And hey presto – one of the most useful accessibility information pages I’ve seen. Yes, I might be slightly biased as I helped write it and it features my ‘Positive Accessibility Logo’ (not for use without my express written permission and payment of a suitable fee), but it works. Because it has information people with disabilities find useful.
And whatever happens, please don’t tell people your premises is ‘accessible’ without providing further detail – because everyones ‘accessible’ is different. (Yes, this really happens.)
*‘Accessible bathroom’ used to describe a ‘larger than average, has grab rails, step free access, easy-to-use taps and privacy lock’ bathrooms is one of the few times the use of the word ‘accessible’ is moderately useful. However, given the huge variety of set-ups in these I would strongly advise putting a photo of the accessible loo and the area around it.