The U.S. Census Bureau reports there are an estimated 3.6 million wheelchair users in the United States, and this number is increasing every year due to the aging baby boomer generation. In fact, currently one in five baby boomers faces a mobility challenge, and these baby boomers have the largest percentage of discretionary income at their disposal: $175 billion, to be exact.
Does your small business want a piece of this spending pie?
Step one is to make sure these shoppers can actually get into and maneuver through your retail establishment. Key considerations include customer entrances and exits from the building, as well as the ability to move between floors. The good news here is that from the BigBell Flex to ramps and lifts, you have several options at your disposal.
Store Entrances: Steps are probably the biggest problem for customers with disabilities looking to enter a store. Installing a BigBell Flex is a simple solution that requires no structural disruption. The BigBell Flex is a portable, wireless, customizable doorbell alert system that is an affordable alternative to power doors and meets Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. Set at the appropriate height for wheelchair access, the BigBell Flex features both the international symbol for wheelchair accessibility as well as directional signage, and it can even feature your company brand. When a customer approaches your business, he or she will see the BigBell Flex outside your entrance and know assistance is available. Pressing the BigBell touchpad triggers an interior chime to alert employees a customer is outside and requesting assistance, and the employee can then assist the customer as necessary by opening the door, bringing out a portable ramp, or even just lending an arm for support.
Other solutions to consider include installing handrails or a lift.
In Store Navigation: For stores with multiple floors, escalators have become the norm, but for someone who has balance issues or who uses a wheelchair, the escalator is an impractical prospect. If an elevator is space or cost-prohibitive, internal platform lifts can accommodate wheelchairs and walkers and provide a stable, safe alternative for people with limited mobility.
Store Exits: Accidents often occur on staircases, particularly if shoppers are in a rush or carrying multiple bags. Be sure to provide a store exit that has ramps instead of stairs and designate space for disabled parking so that customers don’t have far to travel to reach their cars. In addition, make sure exits are well lit and allow for a flow of both foot traffic as well as wheelchairs.
Your Return on Investment
It’s not that difficult to adapt a store to create accessibility for all shoppers. From the BigBell Flex to ramps and platform lifts, there are numerous options to make your space more attractive to this lucrative market, and improvements don’t have to be expensive. In addition to the low price point on a product such as the BigBell Flex, the federal government actually provides tax incentives to small business owners who create a more accessible environment. According to the ADA Guide for Small Businesses, businesses that have $1,000,000 or less in total revenue in the previous tax year or 30 or fewer full-time employees can receive a tax credit for money spent on equipment, materials, and labor leading to increased building access. This credit can cover 50% of the eligible access expenditures in a year up to $10,250 (maximum credit of $5,000). Talk about access – when the average cost of a doorbell alert system and ramp is under a thousand dollars, small business owners who take advantage of the tax credit can essentially access a sizeable new market for minimal investment.
Accessibility is a winning business strategy that welcomes all customers to your store. Even better, when each store in your community creates an accessible shopping experience, collectively you create an accessible community. An accessible community is a people-based community, and a people-based community engenders neighborhood loyalty and what small business retailers want most: new customers and repeat visits.
To learn more about how you can create an accessible environment, view our presentation: A Simple Message of Welcome