Disability News

How Much Does it Really Cost to Adapt Business Premises to Suit Wheelchair Users?

Take your wheelchair out and about for a shopping trip and you’ll quickly discover that town centres still aren’t designed with wheelchair users in mind. Dropped kerbs aren’t particularly easy to come by, but even harder to find are shops and stores that have adapted to suit the needs of people with disabilities.

Some business owners will argue that adaptations are too expensive – particularly for smaller businesses where every penny counts – but does it really cost a fortune to make changes that would benefit the wheelchair-using community?

Bigger Spaces: Better Layouts

Wheelchair users face few frustrations worse than overcrowded shops, where one rack of items is placed so close to the next that even an able-bodied shopper has to squeeze between the gap. Wheelchair users need wider spaces, and it doesn’t cost a thing to think more about the layout of a shop. Often, with a little (cost-free) careful planning, a shop owner can display the same number of products in a much more space-conscious way, allowing customers that use wheelchairs to navigate the shop without having to carefully plan their route or skip parts of the store completely.

Better floor plans don’t cost a thing, but they’re likely to increase store profits.

Ramped Access: Temporary or Permanent

It’s great if a shop has level access from the street, but a vast majority have at least a small step up or down. Permanent ramps are a real asset to businesses, but they can be costly and difficult to install.

Temporary ramps and folding ramps are likely to be just as appreciated by wheelchair users, and shop owners can put signs on their door to show that they have a ramp available. Wheelchair users, for the most part, don’t mind having to wait for a minute whilst a ramp is put into place. What they do mind is having no access to a shop and no way to browse on their own.

For Hire: Mobility Scooters and Wheelchairs

Business owners can think not just about those that use a wheelchair permanently, but also those that might need to borrow one if they’re out in a public space. Many large supermarkets and shopping centres have mobility scooters or wheelchairs that are available for short-term hire, whilst someone does their shopping or visits an attraction.

Having equipment available to hire doesn’t require a big investment, as most businesses will have a maximum of two or three disabled visitors at any one time. There’s certainly no need to stock up with 20 brand new, state-of-the-art wheelchairs in order to fulfil requirements, when two or three functional ones will usually be enough.

Training: Improving Customer Service

Not all adaptations are physical. Business owners can invest in training to ensure that all members of staff understand the needs of wheelchair users. No disabled individual wants to be made to feel like an inconvenience if they can’t reach a product that is on an upper shelf or if they’re taking a little longer to pack and pay for their shopping.

A helpful (not patronising) attitude can go a long way to improving a wheelchair user’s shopping experience and can encourage future visits.

By adapting their facilities to suit those in wheelchairs, most business owners will find that their profits will increase for a relatively small additional investment.

This article was written by Mobility Smart’s managing director Andrew Atkinson. You can find out more about wheelchairs here.