Almost four million Australians have a disability. Each of them is a potential customer, client or staff member so providing them with the best access possible makes good business sense. Easy access to your premises also benefits your delivery people, shoppers with heavy bags or trolleys, parents with young children in prams, people with temporary injuries or illness and older customers.
Improving access to your business also helps you to meet your legal responsibilities. Under discrimination law, people with disabilities should not be prevented from using public services, areas and facilities. For example they should:
• be able to enter buildings and move freely inside
• have access to facilities like toilets and lifts
• not be confined to a segregated space or the worst seats
• have access to all customer and client information.
Businesses should make reasonable adjustments for people with disabilities. What is reasonable will depend on the size of your business, the difficulty and cost of making adjustments, whether they will work, and health and safety factors. The federal Australian Human Rights Commission has building guidelines for improving disability access to businesses.
Businesses can also improve disability access with policies and customer communication, or by giving extra help to disabled customers. By law, all assistance (guide) dogs for seeing, hearing or mobility, must be allowed to accompany their owners, even into eating areas.
Businesses need to make reasonable adjustments to any practice, policy or procedure which makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for a person with a guide dog to obtain your goods, facilities or services. For example, specify that guide dogs are exempt from any 'no animals allowed' policy.