First of all, thank you for taking the time to reach out and learn how you can make your small business accessible to all!
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires businesses to provide employees and customers with reasonable accommodations. While the rule may apply to companies with 15 people or more, small businesses would do well to remember to accommodate their disabled customers and employees.
Advocating for and accommodating your employees and customers is a great way to show that you care for and respect their needs.
Here’s a quick overview of what you should know:
Understand what a “reasonable accommodation” is
When making reasonable accommodations for a disabled customer or employee, know that each may require different accommodations. For example, suppose your small boutique has a rule against more than one person in a dressing room. In that case, reasonable accommodation must be made for wheelchair users who require a companion to assist them in trying on clothes.
For a small business with a disabled person on staff, a reasonable accommodation could be remote or telework, a safe place to take a break when needed, and leave for disability-related treatments or symptoms.
Regarding wheelchair users and those who need mobile assistive devices, remember that they must be allowed to use these devices in all areas where other customers are allowed to go. The only exception is whether legitimate safety standards and requirements prevent safe use—even then, it must be based on actual risks. For example, if they cannot safely go out onto a manufacturing floor without jeopardizing the safe operation of the business.
The ADA does consider undue hardship, like if a piece of equipment would be too difficult or expensive for the small business to acquire. However, the accommodations cannot be refused just because there is some cost.
Reach out to your community
If you have employees or customers who are disabled, take the time to ask them how you can better accommodate them. Take what they tell you to heart and thank them for their input. Then, work on making your business more disability-friendly.
If you aren’t sure where to start, many professional resources are available to help get you started.