How to Make Your Store More Accessible to Customers

Besides being the right thing to do, implementing accessibility in retail matters more than you might realize. People with disabilities should have the same access to services that other customers do; ordering grocery delivery doesn’t make up for the exercise or social aspect of shopping in a store, and trying on clothes is the best way to find clothes you’ll like. Fortunately, businesses can increase their retail accessibility in several ways.

Create a Reachable, Well-Lit Interior

Wheelchair users and others who cannot reach high up struggle with shelves, counters, and tables designed for taller interactions. Of course, this limitation applies to product shelves, but tall stools in food establishments are also loathed in the disabled community.

To that end, a dark and “moody” atmosphere creates difficulties for the visually impaired. Likewise, noisy environments can be challenging for hard-of-hearing customers. However, if you can’t eliminate these aesthetic factors, you can still offer targeted accommodations, such as a designated quiet area or extra lighting.

Have a Responsive Staff

Shelf heights, door widths, and toilet placement are great implementations, but physical accessibility is only one part of accommodating the disabled community; staff attitudes and practices are worth at least as much. It’s more complicated to measure than physical installations, but training a considerate staff can compensate for areas that may be lacking.

Of course, it can take a while to change existing workplace cultures. Still, it’s essential to focus on avoiding the most common ableism habits encountered in a store: rigidity, neglect, and condescension. When staff doesn’t immediately know how to help or what kind of assistance might be needed, their reaction may be to ignore them. On the other hand, being too concerned can come across as condescending and insulting. Strike a balance; be receptive to their requests but let them set their agenda independently.

Focus on the Parking Lot and Entrance

Disabled people choose businesses with accessible parking and entrances; it’s really that simple. However, when parking is a pain and you still need to fix the potholes, it can be a deal-breaker.

Designated accessible parking spots must stand out in a certain way. Not only must they be as close to the main entrance as possible, but they must be broad enough and feature marked access aisles next to them. These are simple standards to follow, but businesses too often partially or poorly implement them.

Make the Interiors Wider and Reduce Clutter

The cluttered mom-and-pop shop interior may be charming to most customers, but disabled people with mobility impairments need room to move around the store. Whether it’s for a wheelchair, a cane, or a guide dog, accessibility of this kind cannot stop at the door. All customers want to navigate the store without crashing into product displays or other shoppers. That’s why decor and layout matter.

In 2022, the world is far more accommodating than ever, but retailers still have a long way to go. Changes are slowly happening, though, and you too can make your store more accessible to all potential customers.

Brett Sartorial

Brett is a business journalist with a focus on corporate strategy and leadership. With over 15 years of experience covering the corporate world, Brett has a reputation for being a knowledgeable, analytical and insightful journalist. He has a deep understanding of the business strategies and leadership principles that drive the world's most successful companies, and is able to explain them in a clear and compelling way. Throughout his career, Brett has interviewed some of the most influential business leaders and has covered major business events such as the World Economic Forum and the Davos. He is also a regular contributor to leading business publications and has won several awards for his work.