At the time of writing this week’s blog, the vast majority of cafes and restaurants across the globe are closed to sit-in customers because of the Covid-19 pandemic. But, we’re optimistic that the light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer and the day when we can start eating out again is coming!
If you’re a cafe or restaurant owner, you’re possibly spending this time refurbishing or making tweaks to your establishment ready for opening day. While you’re thinking about some new paint colours and how to update your menu, don’t forget to make sure your business is accessible to everyone who wants to use it, and is in line with the UK Government’s rules for disabled access to businesses.
Follow our simple, budget-friendly changes to make to your business is offering better access for disabled persons who want to come and enjoy your hospitality.
Provide disabled access ramps for doorways
- If accessing the front door to your establishment means climbing stairs or stepping over a large lip on the door frame, then it’s going to be out of bounds for most wheelchair or walking aid user, and you are duty bound to provide proper access.
- Constructing a concrete ramp or replacing the existing door (provided it’s of a suitable width to accommodate a wheelchair) might be outside your budget, so you can easily opt to use a portable wheelchair ramp. These are a great option as they’re sturdy enough to support most wheelchairs and electric scooters, while being light enough to fold up and store when not in use.
- If you are planning to offer a portable access ramp you should make it very clear to potential customers passing by that this option is easily available to them. Place a clear sign on your window to let wheelchair users know about the disabled access ramp and give them an easy way to attract your attention when they want to enter your cafe/restaurant (perhaps consider placing a bell at an accessible height).
- REMEMBER you need to be able to quickly and amiably position the access ramp for the customer or else they’ll run the risk of feeling they’re causing a ‘nuisance’, or will choose to go elsewhere. Avoid this by leaving your wheelchair ramp in position during opening hours, if it’s possible to do so.
Ensure space for wheelchairs and mobility aids
It’s obvious to say that your wheelchair using customers will need more space to move around than your able-bodied customers, so you should make sure the positioning of your tables reflects this. Movable furniture will give you plenty of flexibility to clear areas and pathways for mobility aids, and to reduce the risk of visually impaired customers and staff tripping on hazards.
- - Consider where you place your menus or specials board - can chair users reach or see these?
- - Is your till positioned on a high counter where the wheelchair user will struggle to see you, your cakes/wines or use the card payment machine, for example.
Make sure your bathroom is accessible to disabled users
- If you’re a hospitality business you should already be providing a disabled bathroom with wide, easy access entrance.
- Make sure your disability friendly toilet unit has grab rails around the toilet and wash hand basin. A strong drop down grab rail is ideal for providing standing / lowering assistance for people with sore joints or bending difficulty. If you’re slightly tight on space you can use a folding support rail which folds up when not in use.
- You will also be required to provide an appropriate alarm (with a cord that hasn’t been tied up!) to attract attention in the event of an emergency.
- To make your accessible toilets even more user-friendly your taps should have levers or you could add these tap turners and consider adding a raised toilet seat or even a raised toilet seat with a frame Make sure you keep the ground area free from any hazards like bins or stored items to allow for the maximum amount of user space.
Offer Adaptable Crockery and Cutlery
Some people find it extra difficult to hold a cup and saucer, and even standard cutlery can be a considerable challenge.
Invest in some adapted cutlery like a bendable fork or a bendable spoon with your customer’s meal could make a huge difference to their ability to enjoy their meal and they’ll give you top scores for your ability to cater for their needs.
Make sure you offer table service to those who struggle to carry food from an ordering counter and always show willingness to adapt and help your customers to get the best out of your establishment. They really will thank you for it and if you’re not sure how to help, just ask.
Advertise your disability-friendly services
Don’t rely on simple passing trade to let your customers know that you’re providing great accessibility in your cafe or restaurant - shout about it on your social media, in your local papers and on your local disabled people’s groups and forums. Make sure you have great signage in your premises to encourage wheelchair users to come in.
It only takes a few simple tweaks to your premises to make it much more user-friendly for wheelchair users, yet it opens your business up to its share of the 1.9% of people in the UK who are wheelchair bound - and that’s potentially a lot of very welcome income for you and your business.
Need more help to improve the disabled access to your business? We're always here to help so get in touch today.
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