Accessibility for visitors to commercial premises is critical in today’s competitive world. With one in five of the UK’s population living with some form of disability, it makes sense to take the matter seriously. Luckily there are measures you can take to ensure disabled people are able to enjoy your facilities in comfort.
A Wheelchair Ramp for Steps?
If there are steps leading up to the premises or on the shop floor itself, a ramp might make sense. Creating instant accessibility for wheelchairs is both logical and potentially inexpensive. Depending on the space, various types of wheelchair ramps for steps are available.
Remember that some wheelchair users will be pushing the wheelchair themselves, so make sure you fit the correct length of ramp. The longer it is, the less steep the gradient will be, making it easier to climb.
With limited space, it might be difficult to fit a fixed ramp. Instead consider the various options for portable models on the market. Telescopic ramps are available which close down to half their length when not in use. These ‘channel ramps’ come in pairs. They have raised edges which prevent wheels from sliding off to the sides.
Suitcase or folding ramps are a more suitable option for commercial settings. These ramps are available in various lengths and are easily stowed away when not required. Most modern units are aluminium, because of its low weight and strength. Again, choosing a model with raised edges it sensible, as it reduces the chance of an accident.
Carefully consider the weight bearing capacity of any ramp before ordering it. Remember that it needs to carry the weight not just of the wheelchair and its user, but also that of the person pushing it.
Remember too that the weather may cause the ramp to get wet and slippery. Ramps are available with non-slip surfaces. Abrasive patterns are either milled into the surface of the metal, or textured plastic layer is present, both doing a similar job.
If you are a shop or café owner, it is vital to let customers know that a ramp is available, so signpost it clearly. Also, ensure staff are aware of where any portable wheelchair ramps for steps are and how to use them safely.
Toilet Facilities for Disabled People
Suitable toilets are a must if you want to be accessible for disabled people.
They need support rails fitted internally and have a step-free wide doorway. An alarm system should also be in place. This is usually in the form of a chord-alarm attached to the ceiling for emergencies.
The height of the sink should also be at a level which makes it easy for use by someone in a wheelchair. The disabled toilet room needs to be larger than a stand toilet cubicle. Manoeuvring a wheelchair is not easy in a tight space, so this requires thought.
Official UK building regulations have a document (commonly known as Doc M) for disabled toilets. It lays out the specific requirements for a disabled toilet. These include minimum dimensions, necessary support rails, sink height and other factors. The disability aids included within the Doc M remit are widely available to buy. In some cases packs are available containing every piece of equipment needed to comply with the regulations.
The Shop Floor
On the shop itself, think about the width of the gangways and if there is space to fit a low level counter. Walkways for able bodied people may be too narrow for a wheelchair.
If it is a large shop there may be different floor levels. Ensure that any steps have a ramp within easy reach, be it fixed or portable. Make sure too that your staff are well informed and trained in how to use the ramps safely.