Bite-Sized Accessibility Moves for Small Businesses
Striving to make our businesses more accessible to all is the right thing to do and, by the numbers, it’s also good business. The more people who can access your business, the more potential customers you have. Unfortunately, without systems to help small business owners who are barely scraping by to implement accessibility standards, the cost can seem prohibitive, and businesses often give up. Even if you can’t afford big renovations today, there are many free and low-cost efforts you can make that have a large impact. Read below for a few suggestions to affordably boost your business’s accessibility.
1. Simplify your website.
Why? 26% of American adults experiences some form of disability (CDC 2019) (blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations). We all want a stylish website, but typically, the more flare you add, the more difficult your website becomes.
[Image Description: Percentage of adults with functional disability types: 13.7 percent of people with a disability have a mobility disability with serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs. 10.8 percent of people with a disability have a cognition disability with serious difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions. 6.8 percent of people with a disability have an independent living disability with difficulty doing errands alone. 5.9 percent of people with a disability are deaf or have serious difficulty hearing 4.6 percent of people with a disability have a vision disability with blindness or serious difficulty seeing even when wearing glasses. 3.6 percent of people with a disability have a self-care disability with difficulty dressing or bathing. –CDC 2019]
Here are some handy tips:
- Don’t use images for text where real text is possible. The more you use real text, the better screen reader apps will understand your website.
- Give every link descriptive language so that screen readers can tell the user what the link is for. For example, use “See event information here” rather than just “click here.”
- Run your site through the free program, WAVE, to review for inaccessibility issues.
(Full disclosure: Ithaca.Community is working toward becoming a more accessible website, but we are not perfect. Thank you for your patience!)
2. Buy a nursing pillow for your waiting area.
A third of New York State households include folks under 18 (US Census). That means that at any given time, a large number of Ithacans have babies in tow, and it turns out that kids like to eat frequently! Nursing pillows provide comfortable support for babies, whether breast or bottle feeding, and let caregivers know that you value their business.
3. Fix that flickering light.
Most people find flickering lights irritating and distracting. Some folks cannot tolerate flickering lights without experiencing nausea, migraines, and even seizures (learn more about photosensitivity here). For a few tips on managing sensory needs, check out our blog post, “3 Tips for Navigating the Holidays with Special Needs.”
4. Leave sex/gender off your forms. Ask for pronouns instead.
It is common practice to ask for sex/gender info on intake forms and paperwork, but it is worth combing through your forms and asking yourself, “why do I need this information?” Often, the information you actually need is how to properly address the person (she/he/they/___). Whenever possible, give folks a chance to write in their response rather than make them choose specific options. For example…
Instead of: “Name:________ Gender: (circle one) male/female”
Use: “Name:__________ Pronouns:__________”
Stepping back from gendered language is also a great way to be more inclusive of all families.
Instead of: “Mother:________ Father:_________”
Use: “Parent/Caregiver:___________ Parent/Caregiver:__________”
For more information on this topic, check out International Pronouns Day’s resource page.
5. Have a selection of sturdy, armless chairs.
From the Fat Lip Podcast: “Seating is truly one of the most difficult things to navigate as a fat person. Are the restaurant chairs sturdy? Do they have arms? Does the place only have booths? What if they only have high bar stools? What if I get to this choir practice and there aren’t chairs at all? Seating is an access issue that thin people generally don’t even think about, but a bad chair situation can ruin a fat person’s entire day.”
Check out their blog post, “27 Sturdy Chairs for Fat People (Up to and Beyond 500lbs!)” for quality reviews on furniture.
Do you know a local business that is doing an awesome job creating an accessible and inclusive space?
Message us! We would love to know and give them a shoutout. 😀