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B2C Communications

In this article I am talking about business to customer communications or any communication between an organization and who they are communicating with. If you deal with people you may come across people who cannot talk. Some people can have phone conversations, some people cannot. If your job is to communicate with people, you should take note and respect their preferred communication method.

This is particularly important if you deal with sensitive information for example hospitals and sexual health clinics. If you have privacy protocols you should update them so they are compatible with people that cannot speak. All you have to do is record the person's communication method and train one of your staff to do the communication. It is not hard but I have found in New Zealand that many organizations do not do this, even those in the disability field.

If you are a disability orintated organization it is also critical that you have guidelines in place for accessible communication. You should understand that we have unique needs and for some this includes in the area of communication. Most of us like to be spoken to directly instead of going through a family member or carer.

In today's digital world independent communication for people that cannot talk is more possible than ever. Organizations serious about serving people that have disabilities need to train the appropriate staff members to deal with Email and text.
Posted at 04/09/2017 18:35:04 EDT 0 comments

Parking accessibility

Many places provide priority parking for people with disabilities. This is typically done with a wheelchair symbol and newer versions of the ideas have initials like S.P. for special parking and P.P for priority parking. Many concepts evolve over time; the best practices are outlined in this article.

The problem with the wheelchair symbol is it does not do for people that have invisible disabilities. They may be more prone to getting questions about their whether they are allowed to park in to priortized spot. Modern thinking suggestions initials like S.P.For Special Parking is a way to solve this. Personally I don't like the word special so I think P.P. For Priority Parking is the way to go.

Visibility is key. The more visible the spot is the less likely people will use it when they don't have a right to. Instead of coloring the symbol or letters you should color a background with the item in it. Also rules should be strictly enforced to further prevent abuse.

Obviously the spot should be close to the entrance of the building and near a lip with enough space for a wheelchair to get up. Such spaces are typically wider than regular spaces.

Parking is the first impression that someone has when they visit you; so make it count.
Posted at 13/07/2017 18:58:11 EDT 0 comments

Public transport accessibility

People with disabilities are more likely to use public transport as some can't drive or don't have the money to own a vehicle. It is therefore essential that public transport is accessible.

Obviously when starting with trains the platfoms should be accessible with lifts. A way for wheelchairs to get up is critical. This could be in automated ramps or manually operated portable ramps that the staff operate. If doing automatic you may want to consider what technology can be used to prevent accidents for example sensors that detect movement. There should be a good amount of space when you enter the carage.

Buses must be accessible for standard wheelchairs; usually this is just one area of the bus. Drivers need to stop for people with blindness. Occasionally people that have no vision have problems getting buses to stop for them.

Governments must be supportive of taxis. Just vans are no longer enough. Smaller vehicles can be modified so wheelchairs can go in them. this allows more of them on the road which is important to maintain people's independence. They should be as on demand as possible. If a friend suddenly decides to have a party and you have to wait 24 hours for a taxi that's inadequate.

Finally some governments enable discounted transport. For example in New Zealand we have the Total Mobility scheme which provides half price taxis for the first $80 of a trip. I also get $250 worth of vouchers from the Cerebral Palsy Society of New Zealand every six months. The combination is very handy since I travel to the airport a lot. Other people with disabilities generally have very limited income so providing discounts for something they may be forced to use could be beneficial.
Posted at 17/06/2017 17:38:12 EDT 0 comments

Legal accessibility

The legal system should be accessible for all but there are several barriers which get in the way. The first is cost and this is not universal unique to the disability community. Good legal advice and action costs money which a lot of people with disabilities and everyday citizens do not have. If people don't have the money they probably won't take action.

They could be limited to online reviews; ironically it is the business that could then use legal threats for them to take down the review. This has happened to me; while I knew such a court action would be unsuccessful I just didn't need the drama and liked the owner on a personal level. My post was primarily meant to attack the regulations rather than his business. While legal threats from a review happen occasionally reviews are a good way to shame businesses if you have a legitimate complaint but don't have the legal resources to go further.

There are communication issues for people that cannot talk or use sign language. While you can bring interpreters this means an extra person is involved with your legal affairs; get them to sign a non disclosure agreement. If you don't want to use your regular carer legal advocates may be available to help. Some professionals may be able to communicate with you alone. If there is a group of you that have this need; you may want to seek out a professional and train him/her up to communicate with people who have communication difficulties.

To an extent the above also applies to people that have difficulties understanding or reading. If you cannot read most legal representatives will read the document to you. If your lack of understanding is significant it may be time to get a power of attorney. You don't necessarily need one if you just have problems signing, consider a signing stamp.

Unfortunately there are people that target people who experience disabilities to take advantage of them. You should always be wary of such behavior and try to protect yourself.
Posted at 05/05/2017 18:56:43 EDT 0 comments

Finding accommodation

Finding accommodation can be difficult for people with disabilities. Governments have social housing but you have to be the poorest of the poor to qualify. I imagine it is the same with council housing. If you are reasonably well off you have to go private or into residential care. From my understanding there are other social housing options as that many serve as alternatives.

I have been told that private landlords don't like wheelchairs on the carpet or possible holes in the wall. Plus if they ask you to leave it could be a major problem due to there being limited options. The solution may be to get a longer term lease and offer to pay expenses. You could probably do this with a group of people to lessen expense. Either choose partners less likely to hit walls or get a contract saying they are responsible for the damage. I would suggest that you do the latter, or both.

If you are on a single income it could be difficult to buy a house and if you are on a benefit practically impossible. Even if you have a job it probably will not pay enough to get you on the property ladder. Therefore the standard dream of owning your own home is almost impossible for people that have a disability.

There are additional factors beyond costs. One is transport. If you live too far away from a main city centre or shopping mall this could a problem. Another factor are paths or hills in your area if you have mobilty issues. If there are limited options you may have to put up with it.

Finding accommodation is not easy and good solution can be difficult to achieve. To ensure minimal stress you may have to make your solution as long term as possible.
Posted at 10/12/2016 16:29:00 EST 0 comments

Accessible Websites

Accessibility is not always physical barriers. The internet has become more relevant to everyday life and specifically to business. It is essential that your website is accessible otherwise you may miss out on buyers, subscribers or readers. You can find tips on building accessible website below

Always provide alternative text for important images using the ALT tag.
Ensure all content is easy to understand.
Provide either closed captions or transcripts for videos, or both.
Provide transcripts of audio clips.
Keep your layout simple, so it can be resized without impacting the layout or losing information. This is also important as a general rule for mobile devices.
Avoid menus that automatically close when the mouse is not on them. Click to open, click to close.
Avoid popover advertisements if possible; some people operate computers slowly and these can be a pain to close.
Make content easy to find and/or browse.
Ensure the colours are a good combination so content can be easily seen.
Ensure all links and other functionality can be operated from a keyboard.
Give people enough time to use/read content and do activities such filling fill out forms. Give instructions where appropriate.
If you must use a CAPTCHA, ensure an audio version is available; some sites use a plan English question or math problem.
Ensure content doesn't induce seizures; avoid flashing text etc.
Ensure that if a user makes a mistake on your form they don't have to redo the entire form. This is good as a general rule; most people don't like typing things repeatedly.
Make your site and scripts as backwards compatible as possible. Some users are stuck with older technologies. If you really want to use newer technologies consider doing a basic version. This could also benefit mobile users.
If you offer phone support it is important that people can still email you; some people cannot use phones.
Posted at 18/04/2016 22:22:00 EDT 0 comments

Accessible businesses

Accessibility is important and it even more important if you are a business owner. Ensuring that your business is accessible to all will help you reach the maximum number of customers including from your older customers which also benefit from establishments that are have a universal design.

Things don't have to cost to as much as you think, particularly for one story buildings, and ramps are always fitted cheaper when building. There is also portable ramps that can be purchased for a few hundred dollars, they can potentially be shared by multiplie establishments to save money.

Accessibility is not always physical; for example I don't have the ability to talk so if a company only has a phone number on their site that is no good for me. If you they don't answer emails either it can be frustrating, however I can take my business elsewhere. Similarly I have no idea why hotels don't offer room service via email.

In the digital age it is also important make sure that your website is accessible. Some accessibility software have their own browsers and this can be problematic. Of course you have to label images correctly for screen readers. The good news is that there are probably people online that can help with this.

People with disabilities are about 20% of the population, they also have friends to share positive experiences with. If you neglect people who experience disabilities, you could be neglecting your bottom line. If you are not sure if your business and/or website is accessible there probably would be disability organizations that would want to help, all you have to do is reach out.
Posted at 02/02/2016 17:09:41 EST 0 comments

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