Starting a Business? Think Accessible First.

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When you start a business, there are plenty of topics to keep you busy. These topics include your business plan, employees, banking needs, and more. However, before you get too deep into your plans, you’ll want to establish your accessibility protocols. An accessible business ensures all your customers feel welcome which, we assume, you’re going for. Here are a few tips so your guests with a visual disability — or other disability — feel right at home.

Business with open sign in window

Assign an ADA specialist.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination. It also ensures that they have equal access and opportunity in several different categories, including public accommodations. That’s where your business fits in. As a public business, you’re required by law to ensure your customers with blindness or other disabilities have the same access as everyone else.

Before you hang the Open sign in your window or start accepting new clients, assign one person to be an ADA specialist. This person will be responsible for ensuring your business plan is ADA compliant every step of the way. Your ADA specialist is a critical position and should be assigned to someone with Human Resources and/or business law experience.

Create an accessible business strategy.

Consider what type of business you are planning. A restaurant? A retail store? A doctor’s office? Each business type will have its own accessibility needs. And, you must develop a strategy so your customers will be able to shop, dine out, and get a check-up without any barriers.

To help identify accessibility barriers, map out a customer’s journey through your brand with the assistance of your team and ADA specialist. Then you can strategize how to remove each barrier and provide excellent service to all your customers.

Tennis shows and lower portion of jeans of a person sitting outside in wheelchair

Look for “reasonable accommodations.”

If you’re building a new location or remodeling an existing site, keep reasonable accommodations for accessibility in mind as you move through the process. These accommodations will not only benefit your paying customers but your employees as well. They also have the right to equal benefits and privileges of employment that other employees have.

Make your website accessible.

Your website may be something simple that states your hours of operation, or it might be a shiny, interactive content library. Whichever it is, you should sit down with your web development team and stress that your website needs to be accessible. Make sure your developers know WCAG AA compliance standards. If they don’t, hire a third party to audit your site for accessibility gaps.

Accessibility includes documents on your website. Another common problem is that documents, such as PDF files, are also not accessible. If you have PDF files, you must provide a text-based version compatible with assistive technologies, such as HTML or RTF. Or, you can have your PDFs remediated by Section 508 compliance specialists.

Ensure all documents are accessible.

Last but certainly not least, you need to make sure all documentation used by customers or employees is accessible. This includes items such as menus, statements, or other handouts. The ADA stipulates that the customer should have an accessible version of your business documents in the format they prefer. So, you’ll want large print, audio, and braille documents, as well as an electronic version that can be used with a screen-reading program.

Download our ebook, Accessible Formats for Your Business

Starting a business is a lot of work, but it’s also exciting! As you dream big for your start-up, keep the needs of all your customers in mind. This will not only keep you ADA compliant, but it will mean that your customers with blindness, low vision, or a reading disability have equal access to your business.

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This post was written by Braille Works

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