Taking steps to make your hospitality venue more accessible is an excellent way to promote an inclusive culture and ensure that all of your customers feel welcome.
Accessibility doesn’t just begin and end with access for wheelchair users; it also focuses on people with less visible needs, older patrons with certain requirements, and even families with young children or prams to think about.
It’s about changing the brick and mortar parts of your venue that aren’t accessible, as well as educating yourself and your staff members on different kinds of access, appropriate language, and how you can consistently improve your venue.
Here are four key aspects to think about when giving your venue an accessibility makeover.
Ramps, lifts, and wide aisles
Many venues choose to capitalize on space by placing tables close to each other, and ensuring as many patrons as possible can utilize the venue.
Although this is a great way to service a high number of patrons, it cuts an entire customer base from your potential reach. Consider removing or re-situating a table or two to ensure customers with wheelchairs, walkers, and prams can access seats and have extra room to move.
If your venue has stairs at the entrance, it’s often incredibly easy and cheap to install a ramp to ensure accessibility. Venues with a set of stairs inside may find it a little more difficult to provide full accessibility, but if you do have the funds to install a lift, it’s an excellent way to ensure you are inclusive.
If your venue is large enough that it has multiple bathrooms, ensure one is labelled as accessible – or ensure that your existing bathrooms cater to people with all needs.
For large venues like clubs or event facilities with bathrooms that include a number of different stalls, make sure that at least one of them is accessible for people with wheelchairs and walkers. For large family-friendly venues, consider a family bathroom with a change table and extra space.
In the interest of social accessibility, you might also choose to signpost your bathrooms as gender neutral.
One of the most important steps towards ensuring your venue is as accessible as possible is ensuring your staff are educated, informed and knowledgeable on the topic.
In hospitality, great service is the biggest thing you have to offer to your customers – and it can mean repeat customers, great reviews and an excellent reputation.
When it comes to accessibility, being able to come up with quick solutions, use appropriate language, and conduct yourself in a welcoming and professional way are all important. Consider sourcing training for your staff, and think about the extra little things that your staff members could be taught to do that would improve the experience for customers with different needs.
For example, filling up a bowl of water for vision impaired customers who visit with their dogs. Taking the time to remove a chair or set up a table for a customer in a wheelchair. Seating those who have difficulty walking towards the front of the venue.
Parking, menus and appropriate furniture
If your venue is lucky enough to have its own parking spaces for customers, ensure that at least one of them is accessible for those with disability parking permits – this just provides potential customers with another reason to visit your venue.
If you don’t have parking on site, consider noting the closest parking spaces and disabled parking spots to your venue on your website or social media, to give customers a little bit of extra information.
When it comes to menus, think about getting a menu or two created in braille, and have a few menus on hand with larger font – this is a great addition for older customers and those who are vision impaired. Thinking about appropriate furniture is another way to ensure accessibility and comfort. Try to make sure that it is easy to remove chairs or other furniture if a wheelchair user or family with a pram requires the space, and for family-friendly venues, invest in a highchair or two. If your chairs aren’t cushioned, think about having cushions and even rugs available for those who might feel more comfortable with them.
Giving your venue an accessibility makeover can be a big job, a small job, or somewhere in between, so it can be best to take it one step (or ramp!) at a time or create an ongoing plan to implement changes within a certain timeframe.
Making your venue accessible benefits everyone; your customers will feel welcome, and you can safely and proudly advertise your venue as an inclusive space for all customers that walk (or wheel!) through your door.