Advocate tackles accessibility barriers one business at a time
WATERLOO REGION When Paula Saunders and Andrena Lockley Brown head out to a new restaurant, they got more on their minds than a juicy hamburger.
Saunders uses a wheelchair, and the first thing she worries about is whether she can get in the front door.
Lockley Brown doesn have a disability, but as public awareness and education co ordinator for the Independent Living Centre of Waterloo Region, she advocates for those who do.
So she keeps an eye out for barriers that might prevent a person living with a disability from coming to that restaurant.
Over the past few months, Saunders and Lockley Brown have been secretly visiting restaurants and stores to see how accessible they are. They making the visits as part of the independent living centre newly launched Mystery Shopper Program.
It modelled on the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Mystery Shopper Program, which helps businesses identify gaps in services.
Retailers, restaurants and hotels hire mystery shoppers without telling staff to evaluate the quality of their services. They receive a report of the visit and often make improvements they hope will boost their competitive edge.
The independent living centre learned of this program and wanted to start something similar focusing on accessibility issues.
They called in Jim Davidson, principal of Competitactics, which developed and manages the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Mystery Shopper Program.
something I been looking at for a couple of years, Davidson said recently. just seems like a perfect synergy. basic program is the same, he said.
A ralph lauren outlet online mystery shopper, who normally evaluates how fast a restaurant service is or how clean the washrooms are, would now examine how high the sinks in a washroom are and whether there are any steps that would prevent someone in a wheelchair from entering an establishment.
With an aging population living longer and using mobility aids, Davidson said businesses must consider the needs of all customers.
can be disabled or has the potential of becoming disabled in their life, he said.
The recent Boston bombing in which some people lost limbs, and the Boeing 777 plane crash in San Francisco in which several people reportedly experienced paralysis, show how quickly this can happen, he said.
Statistics Canada figures show one in seven Canadians has some sort of disability. In Ontario, 15 per cent of residents have a disability, according to the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services.
These people have buying power, Davidson says.
think the demand is there. Do I want to be cloistered in my house or do I want to be active if there the opportunity? Royal Bank of Canada says people with disabilities have an estimated spending power of about $25 billion annually across Canada.
Saunders and Lockley Brown say it doesn have to be costly for businesses to make changes to accommodate people with disabilities. Sometimes, it as easy as taking out a step and putting in a ramp.
At one restaurant they visited, there was a step between the sidewalk and the patio. They felt it was a tripping hazard and a barrier to people in wheelchairs.
They politely asked to speak with the manager after lunch. They suggested he put in a ramp. It would benefit people with strollers or walkers, and people with low vision, they told him.
was not receptive, Lockley Brown said. said he didn design the building. They rented the space. wouldn put them in touch with the owner.
that attitude that was the bigger problem, Lo ralph lauren outlet online ckley Brown said.
Another restaurant visit could have ended badly, but didn because of the manager flexibility and willingness to help.
They visited a casual restaurant with high top tables that couldn be moved f ralph lauren outlet online or a wheelchair. The patio had tall picnic tables with footrests that Saunders couldn use.
The staff looked panicked when they saw Saunders come in. However, a manager found a table that allowed them to sit in the aisle, blocking two other tables.
It wasn ideal and it wouldn have worked if it w ralph lauren outlet online as busier, but they gave the restaurant points for the way the situation was handled.
Saunders had a good experience when she visited a grocery store which was part of a large chain. She was in the produce aisle and needed a plastic bag for her lettuce. But the bags were placed up there out of reach for someone in a chair, she said.
Even some of the red peppers were too high for her to grasp.
She spoke to a manager who was receptive to her suggestion to place rolls of plastic bags at a lower level. The manager even agreed to move some of the produce.