Planning for Wheelchair Accessibility
Due to my disability (cerebral palsy), I use a power wheelchair to get around. Because of this, it is essential for me, and other wheelchair users, to know whether places are wheelchair accessible before visiting. Below are three tips I have learned when planning a wheelchair accessible outing:
If you have friends or family members (especially who use wheelchairs) who have been to the location you have questions about, I’d recommend asking them whether the place is wheelchair friendly. For instance, you could ask if the place has ramps and/or elevators, or if it’s wide open and easy to navigate.
Several times, I have asked friends who use wheelchairs about the accessibility of certain places. I feel like this can be the most helpful, as friends and family members likely know you well, and know which places can be easy or difficult for you to navigate.
Do your research
If the place you’re going to has a website, I would recommend going to its website to find out whether there is any information on wheelchair accessibility. Be careful, though, if a location claims to be “wheelchair accessible” or “ADA compliant” but doesn’t give many details. For example, I went somewhere a couple years ago and its website claimed it was fully wheelchair accessible, which it technically was for me, but it was still pretty difficult to get around. Hopefully, their website is WCAG Compliant, and if it is, they may have some information (or at least a support contact) listed under their Accessibility Statement.
Besides looking for a website, you can also look for Google reviews. When you search for a particular location or business on Google, you will often see a list of reviews on the right side of the webpage. These reviews may have relevant wheelchair accessibility information. You may be able to search the reviews by keyword. Oftentimes, you can use Google’s “Street View” option to take a digital tour of a location. Here’s more about how to find wheelchair accessible information.
Of course, you can always call the place (which may end up being the best/only option). For me, though, it can be difficult for other people to understand my speech because of my disability, so I always prefer doing research online (or asking people I know well). This again underlines the importance of having a WCAG Compliant website, even for visitors who may be looking to physically attend your location.
If I do have to call in advance, I always make sure that a friend or family member is also on the phone in case the person I’m talking with doesn’t understand me. Based on my experience, I’ve generally found that I have to call places such as bowling alleys, or when ordering tickets to certain events.
These are the strategies I use when planning to go somewhere new. Remember, everyone’s situation is different, and different people will have different strategies. Again, I always find it useful to talk to people that you know well and have had shared experiences (when possible). Hopefully, sharing this experience also underlines the importance of our work here at Accessible360 in performing accessibility audits that help our clients ensure their digital experiences are compliant to all users. This can go well beyond just a “shopping experience,” and actually provide consumers with disabilities the ability to engage face-to-face with a brand or business.
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