Summertime shopping is here! Is your business accessible?

School is out and the shopping begins as families plan to venture out on extended vacations or day trips with their kids. Typically, one of the first things we do before hitting the road is stop at the local big box or grocery store to stock up.

Retailers inherently know this, and they prepare by staging large amounts of product outside their main entry doors to catch our attention as we enter. They typically use every square inch of the sidewalk, parking stalls and loading zone areas in front of their stores with “specials” we can’t seem to resist.

Unfortunately, in most cases, they stack everything under the sun — produce, gardening supplies, plants and flowers and any thing they can think of —  directly in the disabled parking stall area, loading zones and at the top and bottom of the curb ramps. This is a big deal for many disabled customers in that rely on this space to be clear so they can park, exit their vehicle and access the store’s entry.

Many disabled customers will park, exit their vehicle and shop at multiple stores throughout a particular center.  If the sidewalk in front of the stores is blocked by merchandise — reducing the accessible route’s clear width — it can make it very difficult and sometimes impossible for some disabled to get through.

At the very least, this can really make it difficult for shoppers using wheelchairs, walkers or parents with strollers to move freely about the center and spend their money. Even worse, it is an open invitation for those disabled activists and their attorneys who are out looking for such violations to zero in on you. If you are a business owner, property manager or landlord of the property, you should take note of this.

Here are some things to keep in mind this summer to maintain accessibility to your place of business.

1)    Keep the disabled parking stalls and loadings zones free and clear of all displayed product. (Use the first standard parking stall next to the loading zone for outside displays.)

2)    Keep the path of travel up the ramp with top and bottom landing 48” minimum clear space free from any product.

3)    Maintain a 48” minimum clear path of travel in front of the stores at all times. (Use colored duct tape or sharpie marks on the concrete to mark the boundaries so that product doesn’t “creep” over the line into your required path of travel.)

4)    Check your areas twice a day or more so that product isn’t moved or left sitting in these areas by customers. What starts out as clear in the morning can soon become a disorganized mess by the afternoon.

5)    Property managers need to watch out for tenants that continue to block access so that it can be corrected quickly before problems arise.  Property managers need to be more diligent during the warmer and drier months as this is when our tenants are more active with outside displays.

What seems like a harmless display of product could bring some seriously unwanted attention to your wallet …

Let’s make this the best summer yet for those visiting our properties by keeping it safe and accessible to everyone.

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