The tenant space is an ever-evolving challenge for any national brand retailer. Retail spaces come in all shapes and sizes, and they often come with built-in-barriers — even before you take occupancy.
I don’t mean to be so blunt, but I call it like I see it (or inspect it) if you will.
While many accessible routes through a retail store are originally well-planned, promotional, seasonal, and just daily customer traffic can impact space around the entrances and reduce aisles widths.
Customers with disabilities will not be able to shop in your store if the route through your main access aisle is too narrow due to shelf-racks and “stuff” being displayed for sale.
Likewise, if the maneuvering clearance alongside the entrance door is blocked by clothing racks, or if a route contains various trip hazards from impulse items displayed too close to the ground on cloth-covered tables or in baskets on the floor, customers with disabilities will find it difficult to move about your store.
Barrier Check List
- During business hours, unlock all doors at accessible entrances, even if they are not main entrances to the store. Mount clear, well-maintained signage at the main entrance to direct people to the accessible entrance. Install ISA signage with wording “If you are disabled and need assistance, please alert sales associate” sign in plain view upon entering store.
- If construction or repair requires customers to detour around taped-off areas or to step up on plywood walkways, ensure that the temporary route is accessible or that there is an alternate temporary accessible route with proper signage.
- Ensure that boxes, vending machines, display racks, or other equipment do not block the maneuvering clearances required at the doors of accessible entrances. Arrange seasonal merchandise, baskets of impulse items, and extra clothes racks so that they do not block or protrude into the accessible route through the store.
- Eliminate billowy, long table covers that spill into the accessible route. These create trip hazards for customers with low vision and snag under patrons’ crutches, canes, and walkers and in their wheelchair wheels.
- Plan all routes so that any hanging or mounted displays, wall-mounted shelving, lighting, or decorations provide required head clearance and cane detection for customers who are blind or have low vision.
- Staff the accessible sales counters and checkout aisles during all business hours. These areas must have their aisles clear and their lowered counter spaces free of equipment and merchandise to be usable.
- Dedicate the first register to open and the last to close as the “accessible sales counter”. Provide a 36” wide by 34” maximum height above finish floor with a point of sale machine mounted on the edge of counter with an adjustable arm base with easy tilting action to provide proper screen view for wheel chair users.
Ensure that accessible exits – including accessible emergency exits – are maintained at all times. Remove all boxes, extra furniture, and other objects that may obstruct the route to the exits and the required door and floor clearances at them. This applies to the back employee stock room area as well.
Ensure that the doors have working accessible hardware and are unlocked during all business hours. If the store has evacuation equipment to assist people who cannot use stairs, make sure it is available, unobstructed, and in working condition. Check your lifts every month to ensure they work properly.
Equally important to the customer experience is the ability to move comfortably within the establishment and to try out or try on the merchandise.
Maintenance of accessible restrooms and fitting rooms, customer service and product demonstration areas, and lifts and elevators is essential for all customers to fully enjoy the shopping experience and buy merchandise.
Barrier Check List
- Unlock accessible public restrooms, toilet stalls, and fitting rooms and make sure they are available to customers with disabilities during business hours. They cannot be used as temporary storage areas or staff locker space.
- Eliminate furniture or equipment, such as shelving, large trashcans, and chairs, which take up required maneuvering space in fitting rooms and restrooms.
- Routinely refill the accessible paper towel and soap dispensers when all other dispensers are refilled.
- Maintain lifts and elevators regularly. Repair them whenever necessary, and return them to service as quickly as possible.
Remove trash receptacles and cigarette urns from under elevator hall call buttons and beside doors to ensure access to controls and sufficient maneuvering clearance.
Alternate formats of printed information for customers must be kept up-to-date to be useful. Offering a Braille brochure with outdated contact information or a large-print leasing/ rental application with wrong rental dates or information will only frustrate and confuse potential customers.
One way to maintain accessible features is to consistently educate all staff about them. Tell employees the location and purpose of accessible retail elements and impress upon them the importance of keeping the features usable. Provide employees with procedures for correcting problems.
Together your staff can ensure that the store’s investment in accessibility brings the greatest possible return.
Ensure your policies and procedures are clear and communicated to every team member.
If you have any questions regarding your own tenant space access needs or company policies’ and training needs, feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.