All posts by Susan Berry

100 Business Tips to Drive Disabled Consumer Loyalty

Drive Disabled Customer Loyalty By Serving Their Needs

Age-In_Place in your own home.With sales projections showing that 70% of all sales will be conducted online, disabled consumer loyalty is more important than ever before.  The senior 50+ and disabled market segments have tremendous spending power.  People don’t leave their homes just to buy a product.  They go to businesses to enjoy the experience.

At the beginning of the 21st century, those aged 65 or over made up five per cent of the population, in 20 years’ time, this proportion will rise to around 18 million, according to the Office of National Statistics.

Across the globe the number of those aged over 60 will nearly triple by 2050, rising to 2.4 billion, up from 894 million in 2010.

Even though the ADA,  Americans With Disabilities Act as the law for all business facilities, there are many other little things that can be done to increase the customer experience.  Happy customers tell their friends.  Unhappy customers post negative on-line reviews and don’t return.

As business people, we all know that it is harder to get a new customer off the street than it is to make your customer a repeat customer.  A disability-friendly business is a profitable business!

If a senior or disabled customer feels welcome, they will stay longer, spend more, and are more likely to become a repeat customer.

Do you know that less than 5% of disabled consumers use a wheel on a regular basis?

  • You cannot always tell just by looking at a person if they have a disability.

    See for Wheelchair travel tips.
    See for Wheelchair travel tips.
  • Customers with limited mobility, heart conditions, lung conditions and other medical conditions appreciate the use of a motorized shopping cart.
  • A comfortable shopping experience increases the time spent in your store and ultimately increases total sales.
Do you know that the combination of bad in-store customer service experiences and the ease of accessible websites for on-line shopping, an increasing number of senior and disabled consumers are spending their money from home?
  • People enjoy a friendly retail experience.  Shopping is not about products.  It’s about finding a solution and feeling good.  A disability friendly retail business will gain market share.

Customer Service Tips for Disabled and Senior Customers


  1. Speak directly to each customer and make eye contact.
  2. You rarely know who is living with a disability just by looking at them.  Many disabilities are invisible.
  3. Only 5% of the disabled population use a wheelchair on a regular basis.
  4. If a guest walks in and then uses the electronic cart, don’t judge them.  Heart conditions and many other conditions cause fatigue.
  5. A comfortable customer will shop longer and spend more.
  6. Disabled Consumers love to shop locally.
  7. Don’t per-judge.
  8. Not every disability is visible, nor is every disability as severe as it might appear.
  9. It’s OK to ask “Is there anything we can do to make your shopping  more convenient?”
  10. Offer specialized help to any customer who asks.
  11. No matter how minor the request, make sure your employees are aware that some requests are unusual.

    Wheelchair photo courtesy of travel blog.
    Wheelchair photo courtesy of travel blog.
  12. If a disabled customer makes an unusual request, as long as the request is safe for everyone,  politely fulfill it.
  13. Always ask first before automatically helping a disabled customer.
  14. Strive for positive feedback from your disabled customers.
  15. Staff should be alert and helpful to all customers.
  16. Train staff to understand the importance of treating all customers with the same amount of respect and courtesy.
  17. If a member of staff knows sign language, let the rest of the staff know.
  18. Train employees to speak directly to a hearing-impaired person, not to their companion. They should speak clearly, not loudly.
  19. Train employees to speak directly to any disabled customer, not to their companion.
  20. Offer disability awareness training to staff.
  21. Encourage persons with disabilities to work at your business
  22. When interviewing persons with disabilities, focus on the candidate’s skills and abilities, not the disability.
  23. Are policies, practices, and procedures flexible enough that, if necessary, modifications can be made to ensure that the skills and abilities of applicants with disabilities are equally represented?
  24. Know American Disabilities Act Employment Laws.


  1. Allowing service dogs is the LAW.

    Service Dog photo courtesy of
    Service Dog photo courtesy of
  2. Know which questions you may ask a person with a service dog.
  3. Always ask permission before petting service dogs.
  4. Always ask permission to offer a treat to the service dog.
  5. Always ask permission to offer the dog a bowl of water.
  6. Always let the Guest know where the dog can relieve itself.
  7. Provide a grassy area near the business entry for service dog relief.
  8. Provide plastic bags and waste disposal.
  9. It is illegal to question the disabled customer on the type of service dog.
  10. It is illegal to request seeing the service dog certification.
  11. You may only ask if the dog is a service dog and what service the dog performs.
  12. If a disabled consumer has a service dog with them, they need the dog.
  13. The only animals covered in ADA Law for Places of Accommodation are dogs and miniature  horses.  There are other guidelines for housing. (Fair Housing Act.)
  14. Many toy breed dogs are used as seizure and PTSD dogs.  You can’t judge a service dog by its breed.
  15. Don’t judge. Remember there are many hidden disabilities.
  16. As a business, you have the right to expect the service dog handler to control their service dogs behavior.


  1. Install flashing smoke and fire alarms to alert a deaf customer of emergency.

    Photo courtesey of wheelchair travel advocate.
    Photo courtesy of wheelchair travel advocate.
  2. Train staff to quickly and safely evacuate all people from the building.
  3. Do not block or lock exits.
  4. Have a safety and evacuation plan.
  5. Have an ADA Inspection of your business and correct all areas for ADA compliance.


  1. Is the entrance to the business accessible to persons with mobility limitations?

    The landscape architects at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates worked with sculptor Martin Puryear to design this courtyard at the New School University. The courtyard includes a spiral ramp that provides wheelchair access to the terrace. Courtesy Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.
  2. Install an automatic door button or a door with sensors.
  3. Many  doors are  too heavy for consumers with limited hand strength.
  4. Always be ready to open the door and welcome a customer.
  5. Is the entry to the building on an even hard surface and without steps?
  6. Install a lift or ramp.
  7. Is the entry clean and free of clutter and debris?
  8. If the accessible entrance is not immediately apparent, are there directional signs?
  9. Are there handicapped parking signs and spaces with necessary access space for vans with lifts?
  10. Post a notice on the front door that assistance will be provided for customers with disabilities.
  11. Avoid thick rubber mats or carpeting which may prove to be a trip hazard.
  12. In cases where mats are required, tapered edges will make using a walker or cane safer. In addition, black-and-yellow CAUTION tape may be applied at the edges for higher visibility.


  1. If large front windows face the morning or afternoon sun, provide light filtering shades to minimize glare.
  2. Glare can make it virtually impossible for a person with some visual impairment to move about safely.


  1. Provide at least one wheelchair-accessible checkout line with a lower counter to sign checks and receipts.
  2. Install tactile buttons at the checkout for customers with limited vision.DSSbrailephone
  3. Provide large fonts on the register screen.
  4. Install audible check out for hearing impaired customers.
  5. Provide a talking UPC bar code reader for hearing impaired consumers.
  6. Provide a handheld CCTV available for customer use in identifying merchandise and prices.
  7. Verify tactile dots on electronic signature screens.
  8. Keep paper and a pen at each register.
  9. When disabled customers use communication devices, ALWAYS be patient and wait for instructions.
  10. Give disabled consumers as much time as they need to check out. Be patient.
  11. If the store policy is for the customer to bag their own groceries, ask permission if the customer if they would like you to bag their groceries.
  12. Do not make any assumptions.
  13. Train staff to ask permission first before offering to assist disabled persons with lifting and carrying items out.


  1. Post a notice on the front door that assistance will be provided for customers with disabilities.
  2. ADA Code is very specific about braille signage locations.
  3. Make sure to read the code before investing in braille signage.
  4. Use large easy to find aisle numbers and items signs.
  5. Locate common items  at end caps.


  1. All businesses must provide accessible restrooms.
  2. Check the ADA Code. You might be surprised that if your restroom was built prior to 2010, it might be out of ADA compliance.
  3. Don’t clutter the restroom with furniture pieces, plant stands and decorative clutter.
  4. Don’t block access to the restroom.


  1. Provide movable seating and accessible tables that accommodate wheelchairs.
  2. Provide benches or chairs for disabled customers to rest. Many customers shop in pairs.
  3. Always make sure that there is a comfortable place for the disabled customer’s companion so that the shopper stays longer and buys more.


  1. Make sure that aisles are wide and meet ADA Code.
  2. Freezer and cooler doors should stay open until manually closed.
  3. Make sure that nothing protrudes into pathways.

    Photo courtesey of wheelchair travel advocate.
    Photo courtesy of wheelchair travel advocate.
  4. Appropriately space displays of merchandise for wheelchairs to maneuver through.
  5. A cluttered store is an uncomfortable store.
  6. People buy more when merchandise is easy to see and reach.
  7. Having excessive merchandise does not mean that consumers are buying more.
  8. A comfortable shopping experience increases total sales per consumer.
  9. Avoiding leaving unattended stacks of inventory in the aisle. Keep aisle clutter free.
  10. If removal of a barrier is not “readily achievable,” are the goods, services, etc. made available through alternative methods? Use high-contrast colored flooring in traffic areas, such as aisle.
  11. Provide large changing rooms with seats and appropriate level clothes hooks for wheelchair access in clothing departments.  Many changing rooms do not meet ADA Code.
  12. Checkered tiles or patterns can help a person with visual impairments find their way through a dark or complex store.
  13. Use different color walls or patterned flooring to delineate different departments.
  14. Different textures of carpet and flooring for help with direction and wayfinding.
  15. Disabled Consumers love to shop locally.
  16. Add a note on your Facebook or Website welcoming “Customers with disabilities – contact us if you need any special assistance.
  17. Make the company’s Website user-friendly to visitors with disabilities.

Disability-friendly businesses understand the tremendous spending power of this consumer segment and do everything in their power to welcome disabled customers to their business. This list is just a beginning. Consider getting a detailed  ADA Inspection and Accessibility Survey with a detail report.  Always remember that if you treat the disabled community well, you will have customers for life.

Disability Smart Solutions is full-service ADA Consulting firm offering ADA Compliance Access Surveys, Project Consultation, Post-Compliance Audits, All-Ability Customer Service Training, Undercover Disabled Guest Mystery Shopping, Universal Design Product Review and Keynote Speaking.  Please contact us to review your accessibility needs.

ADA Compliance
Improve the customer experience and everybody wins.






Customer Service for Disabled Consumers, 23 Excellent Tips

Customer Service for Disabled Consumers, 23 Excellent Tips

Disabled Consumers spend money
Customers don’t buy products. They buy solutions and good feelings.

Most business people believe they know the Golden Rules for customer service.  All too often,  employees and business owners are confused in how to provide appropriate customer service for senior and disabled consumers.  Instead of providing good service, they avoid the customer.  Has this ever happened at your business?

Most employers have an employee training program, yet they often forget to train employees specific rules for serving clients with different physical and mental capabilities.   Employees come from different background, cultures and experiences.   Managers can’t assume that they know how to properly handle all situations.  This is where ADA discrimination situations occur.

By implementing a Disability Etiquette training program in your business, you will ensure that all customers enjoy their experience and all employees feel confident in all situations.  Remember that customers are not in your business to buy a product. They are there to find a solution and feel good.    A happy customer is a customer for life.

Guess what?  Great customer service is the same for every customer!!!

  1. Know who YOU SERVE.   You serve the customer. You are not the boss.
  2. Make sure that your customer KNOWS YOU.
  3. GREET your customers at the door
  4. KNOW your customers.
  5. Everyone wants to feel important and APPRECIATED.
  6. Treat customers as INDIVIDUALS.
  7. SINCERITY matters.
  8. Do what you say you are going to DO.
  9. Make doing business with you EASY.
  10. If a customer makes a request for something special, do everything you can to say “yes.”  Appreciate the power of “YES.”
  11. Treat your EMPLOYEES well and they will treat your customers well.
  12. LISTEN to what your customers have to say.  Listen to their words, notice their tone of voice, observe their body language and find out how they FEEL.
  13. Don’t Assume.  ASK questions.
  14. TRAIN your employees to properly handle a complaint or irate person.
  15. Give customers the BENEFIT of the doubt.
  16. Know how to APOLOGIZE. The customer may not always be right, but the customer must always WIN.
  17. DEAL with problems immediately and let customers know what you have done.
  18. Make sure that employees know what to do and say to make that customer’s experience a POSITIVE, pleasant one.
  19. VALUE Customers COMPLAINTS.
  20. Encourage and  WELCOME  SUGGESTIONS about how you could improve.
  21.  Employees are your INTERNAL CUSTOMERS.   They also need a regular dose of appreciation.
  22. GIVE more than expected.
  23. THANK people even when they don’t buy.
By now you have realized that great customer service for disabled consumers is great customer service for everyone!

We are team builders. We make businesses accessible for all.  We provide Disability Etiquette Training for Business.  Disability Smart Solutions has the knowledge, innovation, imagination and collaborative partners to create successful inclusive solutions.  Please contact us to enhance your employee and customer engagement with both the aging and disabled populations.


  1. Inspect your building for ADA violations
  2. Recommend the changes that need to be made
  3. Recommend how to make the changes
  4. Review the completed changes to make sure that they are completed correctly
  5. Enhance the customer experience
  6. Train your key people
  7. Limit your exposure to ADA lawsuits


Universal Design, Tips for Aging In Place in Your Own Home

Senior Housing
Plan now for your future by incorporating Universal Design and Ageing-In-Place ideas into your home

How does Universal Design help people  Age-In- Place in their own home?

At the beginning of the 21st century, those aged 65 or over made up five per cent of the population, in 20 years’ time, this proportion will rise to around 18 million, according to the Office of National Statistics.

Across the globe the number of those aged over 60 will nearly triple by 2050, rising to 2.4 billion, up from 894 million in 2010.

Universal Design is the principle of designing spaces for maximum usability for  people living with disabilities, of varying size or limited mobility.  There are no specific codes for Universal Design.  There are suggestions. Universal design is not law, it is a way of viewing how things work in our world.  These design principles compensate for a reduced range of motion, reduced sight, reduced sound and reduced strength.  Many universal design inventions were originally developed for military use.

Universal design solutions make life easier for people  with mobility, agility, balance and coordination differences.   Successful universal design creates a barrier-free living environment.

Since no two individuals are alike, no code solves every situation.  Everyone needs to be their own advocate for their individual abilities and aging in place.  Homes must be designed for the individual user’s unique capabilities.  There is no “one size fits all” solution. Children grow and adults change.

Consider designing  your next home with the future in mind. When selecting a designer for a home where you intend to “Age-In-Place,” find one who listens to YOU.   There are many CAPS certified designers and builders, but not all of them are looking at the individual’s needs. Explore options and solutions.  Create a design that gives you maximum ability within the constraints of your budget.   Strive for safety.  When people feel safe in their home, they gain self-confidence and increase independence.

Design Smart Solutions, with over 30+ years in the architectural design industry,  knows that great design solutions are limitless.

What is the Difference between Universal Design and ADA, the American Disabilities Act?

The American Disabilities Act provides legal guidelines for designing public buildings and space that accommodate the disabled.  The guidelines are a minimum standard based on the general population.

Universal Kitchen DesignUniversal Design is not law.  It is a free-thinking way of creating design solutions to address individual challenges. Universal Design and Ease Of Use design decisions can ease the transition as we age or suffer from injuries affecting our mobility.

None of us want to admit that someday we will be old and our bodies will not be as quick, our eyes not as focused and our reflexes not as sharp.  The home we live in and our reaction to it will change.

Our homes will either enhance our ability to live by our own choices or force us to move.  By planning ahead during construction, with a few Universal Design tips, we can all extend the time we remain in our own homes.

Doors, Windows and Hallways, Universal Design Tips

  1. Have a covered outdoor entryway.
  2. Allow space for a future ramp.
  3. Minimize the front threshold.
  4. Make sure that there is at least one step-free entry into the home with easy access to the driveway
  5. Install 3′-0″ wide doors with lever door knobs throughout the house.
  6. Do not block doorways.
  7. Consider a 3′-0″ out-swinging or 6′-0″ sliding glass exterior door in a downstairs Accessible Guest Suite for easy emergency medical support access.
  8. Consider 3′-0″ pocketing doors or 6′-0″ bi-pass doors on closets.
  9. Make all Hallways a minimum of 5′-0″ wide and use the extra space for bookshelves, a computer desk, or display furniture until a time when you need the additional access space.
  10. Make sure that windows are easy to open and easy to lock.
  11. Install towel bars that are rated as pull bars.
  12. Install 48″ high robe hook and towel bars near the shower.
  13. Consider towel bars that are also grab bars.
  14. Install a shower curtain rod or create an open shower area.  Avoid tight glass shower enclosures.
  15. Create a shower without a step.
  16. Install a comfortable seat in the shower.
  17. Install soap and shampoo niches near the shower seat.
  18. Install a hand held shower that mounts on a slide bar.
  19. Consider installing a blow drying machine to dry your entire body.
  20. Check the size of a step in bath tub with the door that closes after you enter the tub.  Many people do not like having to sit in the tub while it fills and then again while it drains.
  21. Add an instant hot water heater by your bathroom.
  22. Install lever faucets at sinks with pull out sprayers.
  23. Consider a heat lamp if you chill easily.
  24. Consider radiant floors for heat
  25. Add a large linen closet with a 3′-0″ wide door in the bathroom for large towels and personal products.

First Floor Guest Suite, Universal Design


  1. If you sleep upstairs, design a first floor Guest Suite large enoughIMG_4274 for a full size bed, large chair and dresser with a minimum of 4′-0″ clear on all sides and 5′-0″ clear on the closet side, exit door side and direct access to a 3 foot wide pocketing  bathroom door.
  2. The bathroom with this suite should be accessible.
  3. The entrance to this bedroom should be easily accessible for medical personnel.

Bathrooms, Universal Design

  1. Have the Builder put wood bracing behind the drywall and tile in
    Aging In Place and Universal Design Solutions for Homes
    Aging In Place and Universal Design Solutions for Homes

    the bathroom walls for future grab bar locations.

  2. On the first floor, have a roll-in curbless  shower without a step or lip (slope floor to drain in at least one bathroom).
  3. This shower should be a minimum of 5′-0″ wide by 4′-0″ deep.
  4. This shower could be located near a Guest Suite or used as the Pool Bath.
  5. Consider multiple shower heads.
  6. Have a hand held shower head mounted on a slide bar, with a separate valve to control it from a seated position.
  7. Install lever faucets in this bathroom and an adjustable handheld shower head.  Do the closed fist test, by seeing if you can turn the water on and off with a closed fist.
  8. Provide a toilet in the same bathroom with a 3′-0″ clear empty space next to it for transferring.
  9. Install comfort level toilets.
  10. Install a bidet if you have space.
  11. Consider a water wand at the toilet if there is no room for a bidet.

 Floors, Steps and Stairs, Universal Design

  1. Select slip-resistant flooring that is comfortable.Solar Step Lights
  2. Limit stairs.  Design stairs wide enough to fit a future chair lift.
  3. Consider building a 5 x 5 closet on the first floor with a 5 x 5 closet above, for a future elevator.
  4. Minimize changes in floor level throughout the home and outdoor spaces.
  5. Anywhere that there is a step-down, select two different colors of flooring material.
  6. Minimize any step down to the garage.  Provide enough clear floor space for a future ramp.
  7. Make sure that there is adequate space in the garage to maneuver a wheelchair with an assistant around a parked vehicle.
  8. Add extra lighting to the Garage for maximum visibility.
  9. If you need to walk through a Laundry Room to access the garage, make sure that it is large enough for both a wheelchair to turn around in and clothes hampers on the floor.

Lighting and Electrical, Universal Design

  1. Automate Lighting Systems.DSSoutlets
  2. Maximize natural light.
  3. Locate extra security system and lighting controls in the rooms where you plan to spend most of your time.
  4. Install adequate lighting throughout the home for safety and visibility.
  5. Locate electrical service boxes, security boxes, main water disconnect valve and any system controls that you might need to access in an emergency, where they can be comfortably reached from a sitting position. 42″ to 48″ off of the floor.
  6. Make sure that the thermostat is not higher than 48″ off the floor.
  7. Make sure that electrical outlets are 18″ to 24″ off of the floor.
  8. Make sure that all switches are easy to reach from a seated position.
  9. Consider easy touch lighting and electrical switches.
  10. Install task lighting in all areas.
  11. Make sure that kitchen some electrical outlets can be reached from a seated position.
  12. install flood lights on all corners of the outside of the house.  Have them on timers.

Kitchen & Laundry, Universal Design

  1. Create work areas in the kitchen. Accessible Microwave Oven
  2. Install pull out racks and drawers in base cabinets.
  3. Keep everyday storage at waist level.
  4. Install dishwasher drawers.
  5. Add a 9″ high kick plate under a standard size dishwasher.
  6. Install a Microwave drawer.
  7. Add under counter safety lighting.
  8. Bring outlets to the front of the cabinets for easy reach.
  9. Leave a minimum of 48″ clearance between surfaces in kitchen aisles.
  10. Buy a front-loading washer and dryer set and mount them on a Accessible Laundry Roompedestal.
  11. Consider an adjustable height sink that raises and lowers at the push of a button.
  12. Consider an adjustable height range that raises and lowers at the push of a button.
  13. Buy a side by side refrigerator freezer.
  14. Provide a pull out shelf below a wall oven door
  15. Use “D” shape cabinet pull handles.
  16. Have multi-level countertops for different tasks.
  17. Use light colored countertops to make items easier to see.
  18. Use easy slide and close drawers.
  19. Use a 3′-0″ pocket door on the pantry.
  20. Mount wall ovens at a height where they can be reached from a seated position.
  21. Add an instant hot water faucet at the sink.
  22. Install a pull out flexible faucet at the kitchen sink and laundry sink.
  23. Select  lever faucets.
  24. Locate the faucets to the side of the sink for easier reach.
  25. Put lockable caster wheels on a kitchen island for flexible space.

We are team builders. Disability Smart Solutions has the knowledge, innovation, imagination and collaborative partners to create successful inclusive solutions. Please call us if you have any Universal Design questions, require assistance with universal design or would like us to speak about Universal Design and Aging In Place at your event. Please contact us to enhance your employee and customer engagement with both the aging and disabled populations.


  1. Inspect your building for ADA violations
  2. Recommend the changes that need to be made
  3. Recommend how to make the changes
  4. Review the completed changes to make sure that they are completed correctly
  5. Enhance the customer experience
  6. Train your key people
  7. Limit your exposure to ADA lawsuits