The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, public services, and commercial facilities. In addition to creating requirements for the architectural design of the built environment, ADA accessibility standards specify how businesses must provide access to goods or services. You don’t need technical expertise to offer basic service that will make your customers with disabilities feel welcome as there are many tools online like accessiBe that can help you with your website compliance. There are legal guidelines that you must follow when providing services in your business to customers with disabilities.
If You Are a Business Owner, What ADA Requirements Apply?
The ADA requires businesses to make their goods and service accessible to people with disabilities if they are readily able to be entered, purchased, or used by people with disabilities. If your business is a place of public accommodation, such as a restaurant or store, and you offer free Internet access to customers and guests, ADA standards require you make the access available regardless of any disabilities that may be unrelated to physical access. Even if there is no signage advertising this service, your establishment must provide it.
What Can You Do?
Often, the best way to ensure everyone is comfortable is to ask questions. You can do this with a simple question: “May I help you?” or “Do you need help?” Let people respond before offering your service. Even if they may not be conscious of it, there are many disabilities that might make them hesitant about availing themselves of your free Internet access. For example, a customer may not feel comfortable accessing the Internet from a public area because he has been the victim of cyber-stalking or other crimes in the past, or she might just not be comfortable using a computer. Asking permission to offer your service demonstrates genuine concern and consideration for fellow patrons.
Offer Options That Meet People Where They Are.
Keep your questions simple so everyone feels comfortable answering them. You should offer at least two options, one of which will provide the best experience for someone with a disability. For example, you can ask: “Would you like to use our free Internet access from here at the front counter, or would you like assistance accessing it from one of our computers in the lounge?” If someone has a hearing disability and is deaf, she may be more comfortable taking advantage of the free Internet if she receives assistance over headphones.
Offer Assistance With Ease.
Be prepared to offer assistance with signing on or letting people know how they can sign on themselves. If you are comfortable using a computer, offer to assist with access so your customer can feel more comfortable learning how to operate the service herself later. Every person is different and has different preferences regarding how he or she learns best. It’s important that someone with disabilities can access information around them without feeling like there’s something wrong with them.
Take Advantage of Technology.
Offer the best experience possible by using technology to help customers with disabilities access your goods or services easily. For example, speech-to-text applications allow people who are blind to use a computer by voice commands instead of through a keyboard and mouse. Another option is an interactive screen reader that vocalizes everything on a computer screen. Make sure your Internet connection is up to date and you’re using the most current software version.