One of the most common requests that we receive is for guidance to help ensure accessibility for all people. Firstly, the definition of accessibility is the degree to which a product, device, service, or environment is available to as many people as possible. It is also considered to be the “ability to access”. For anyone who is affected by a disability, accessibility is a precondition to their full and equal participation in society.
In retail, inaccessibility creates problems – and not just for disabled or elderly customers. Accidents are more likely to happen if a store relies on steps up to its entrance, has internal staircases, or is cluttered with narrow spaces. In particular, those internal stairs are a trip accident hotspot – whether in the home, office, or a retail business.
While ensuring accessibility for everyone is recommended on ethical, moral, and safety reasons, it is also subject to specific legislation across the globe:
- European Union – The European Accessibility Act
- United Kingdom – The Equality Act
- United States – Americans with Disabilities Act
- Middle East – Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and its Optional Protocol
- Australia – Disability Discrimination Act
Accessibility needs to be considered in the design of facilities and the provision of services. Retailers need to consider both. Services include anything that is providing a service to the public, whether it is free, or there is a charge – in the retail environment, this may be in the facilities that they offer, the advice they give, or the information that they provide.
Accessibility is governed by physical dimensions – reach distance, functional height and approach space, along with sensory information such as lighting, auditory signals, and touch symbology.
In conclusion, these key considerations are vital:
- Consider reach and height together. If a user needs to reach to a device to use it, it will need to be lower than if there is no obstruction. For example, a PIN entry terminal at the edge of a counter has no reach obstruction, but if the same device is set back from the edge, then it is considered to be obstructed by the counter which must be reached over
- Ensure that there is adequate clear floor space for a wheelchair user to approach and leave a given location
- Auditory voice prompts and tactile buttons will help visually disabled users access kiosk terminals or other self-service applications
When we reduce barriers and accessibility restrictions, we help people with disabilities to fully participate in society on an equal basis with others.
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