Accessibility: it’s good for business

Our lives are exposed daily to potential accidents or risky situations and many of us take the time at the end of the day to reflect and be grateful—grateful that you, your family, and your friends are in good health and spirits.

However, in some cases a misfortune can occur and an accident can lead to a disability. There is a common misconception that a disability is only something that can be seen, such as a person in a wheelchair, walking with a seeing dog, or using an assistive device. However some disabilities may not be seen, such as a heart condition, a mental health issue, or a condition like Alzheimer’s. Some disabilities are temporary, while others can be progressive or have started at birth.

So, for the next 10 seconds, imagine that you or a loved one has a disability: can you think of a local restaurant, convenience store or other service that you can access without any barriers? OK, we’ll give you 60 seconds to be fair!

As you start your entrepreneurial journey, how can you be creative to assist your customers and let all members of society experience your business? Can you customize your product or service to attract a new set of customers whom you hadn’t considered?

The following information may be helpful for your business when you are working on accessibility initiatives.

What is practical and ethical?

Think for a second: how would I like to be treated in this moment, or in this situation? As always, it’s important to be polite, caring and respectful.

It’s all about communication and building basic trust:

  • Get to know your customer: small talk can help identify how you can help
    • Ask how the individual is doing (identify if you should speak slower, louder or more softly)
    • Ask for the individual’s name (personalize the experience)
    • Ask how they heard about your business
  • Ask the individual if they need any assistance: “Can I guide you through the store?”
    • Do they need special accommodations or assistance to make a purchase at your business (dedicated staff, space, etc.)? You may have product on a top shelf that’s difficult to see for someone in a wheelchair, or perhaps the person may need assistance if they have difficulty seeing clearly.
    • Assist the person with their purchases while they are in your business
  • Ask for feedback:
    • Did the customer have a good experience? If not, why?
    • Remember: If the customer had a good experience, they may very well invite their friends and families to enjoy your service/products next time
  • Respect individual desires:
    • If the individual is not looking for assistance, respectfully let them know you will be around
    • Be comfortable: the individual will tell you if they need assistance.

Ask yourself what can you do today?

☐ Can you have signs that point to elevator, washrooms, etc.?
☐ Is it possible to have your eBook, book or menu in an accessible format?
☐ Can your online videos have caption?
☐ Can you have a dedicated staff member for each shift who is ready and willing to assist?
☐ If you already have an accessible business, can you spread the good word? (e.g., promote yourself on social media)

Can you think of something else? Tweet to share with us @MyStartUpCA

What is your province/territory’s expectation under human rights legislation or other regulations?

British Columbia
Ontario Human Rights and Accessibility for Ontarians with Disability Act
Prince Edward Island
Nova Scotia
New Brunswick

Last thoughts

Consider opening new possibilities by receiving new customers: create an accessible business! We all win when we have accessibility; you; the business owner; and the general public.

Let’s help each other create a better business environment for everyone!

Read the Canada Business Network’s resources and information for your business. As always, as a CFIB member, you can contact a Business Counsellor: 1 888 234-2232.

We encourage you to sign up for a FREE SIX-MONTH MEMBERSHIP to have access to our Business Counsellors.


Author: Cesar Gomez, CFIB Business Counsellor

Follow Cesar on Twitter @josuegomezg

CesarCesar Gomez Garcia has been with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business for six years. His current role at the CFIB is helping members with their questions on compliance. These questions can range from employment standards to health and safety, as well as complicated red tape situations that small businesses face. His passion is reading and writing about entrepreneurship. Learn more about Cesar.

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