There are a lot of options out there for restaurants, dentists, doctors, coffee houses and auto shops. If your location is not wheelchair accessible you are definitely losing money. Countless times each year I change my mind and spend my money elsewhere when I encounter a place that is not easily accessible to me.
For example, I was looking for dentists this week and started calling around. The first place I called said that their building was accessible but their individual rooms were not. The second place I called had a nice website with pictures of the rooms and when I called the receptionist said that many people come in with wheelchairs and transfer easily to the patient seats. Appointment booked. The first dentist lost my business.
Last week I went out for pizza with friends to a place I’d been to as a kid. But upon getting there, the front entrance had a step about three inches high. There was no alternate entrance. They had no ramp. My uncle went in and got a few phone books but this still did not work. Since a bunch of people were meeting there, we couldn’t easily change locations so we ate outside even though it was sprinkling rain. But I will not be going back to that restaurant ever again. I’m currently working on a nice letter to them about improving the step, but I probably won’t be going back even if they do fix it.
Downtown Milwaukee has a lot of old buildings filled with bars, restaurants, and shops. However if I am cruising about the streets and there’s a step to get in your front door, I don’t waste my time trying to find an alternate entrance. I move on. I can’t even count how many businesses might have lost revenue from me and others like me when I am simply out and about. This happens all the time with restaurants.
Even when businesses go above and beyond to accommodate my visit and make their location temporarily accessible, I hesitate to go back. First, I don’t really like to patronize places that aren’t accessible just on principle. But even if a location can be made accessible for me via a temporary accommodation, it’s a mental hassle to ask them to do it. In fact, there are VERY FEW places worth the effort in a world with so many options.
Some businesses make it easy for me to spend my money. Usually these are national chains. However, many small businesses in my area do make sure they have accessible facilities and I appreciate that. They earn my business over and over again. Even when an accessible business has a minor hiccup — like a local Noodles & Company whose bathroom door was REALLY heavy such that I had to wait for someone to come in so I could get out — I will still return because the management was receptive to my comment about the door and fixed it.
I would estimate that I have shifted my spending at least 50 times in the last five years. Depending on the item (auto repair being a huge one, this upcoming dental visit likely another), the amount of money adds up. I’d estimate I have shifted at least $5,000 during that time from places that were not accessible to those that were. Considering how many millions of disabled people there are in this country, that adds up to be a lot of money NOT spent at inaccessible places — in the billions.
What’s it worth to make your location accessible right now and get part of those billions coming through your door? Making your business accessible now means it’s accessible as long as you’re at your location. That’s an unending stream of revenue just waiting to be tapped. And if you’re thinking, “But I never see any disabled people in my store, why should I make it accessible?” then you need to look at that question again and realize the answer is “They can’t get in, so how would you ever see them!”