beauty business accessible

Industry • Best Practice

Is Your Beauty Biz Actually Accessible?: Serve the Disabled Community Better

Here are four steps you can take right now to make sure your business truly is welcoming for all.

According to the World Health Organization, about 15% of the world's population is currently living with some kind of disability. While businesses are required to abide by the minimum disability guidelines set out by laws such as the United States' Americans with Disabilities Act, that should only be seen as a starting point for how to make sure your beauty business can truly serve everyone.

But how do you know if your business is really accessible, and what can you do to improve if you fear it may be wanting? Beyond that, how do you even know where to start? The good news is that just by considering the question you're already moving in the right direction.

Beauty businesses should lead in accessibility

Everyone deserves to look and feel their best. That's a uniting belief across salons, spas, and any other business place that focuses on the aesthetic and comfort needs of clients. Those needs are just as important for people with disabilities as they are for people without them. In fact, the social stigma that still regretfully accompanies some disabilities makes it all the more important for those clients to feel welcomed and well-served by your business.

Beyond the direct service you provide, beauty businesses also bear the special distinction of serving as a social anchor for their community. New clients become regulars, and regulars get to know the staff and each other a little more each time they come in. Given the unfortunate truth that people with disabilities are at a much higher risk of experiencing emotional loneliness and social isolation than others, making sure your beauty business is truly accessible to everyone could have a much greater impact than you initially expect.

Now here are some concrete steps you can take to start better serving the disabled community with your business.

1. Go straight to the source

The best way to find out what disabled people need from your business is to ask them. Find local groups for people with both physical and mental disabilities, and ask them earnestly about how your particular business could better serve them. Not only will they voice concerns that you may never have anticipated on your own, if it's clear that you respect their time and perspective, they may also be eager to spread the word that you are being proactive in making your business a welcoming space. More word of mouth is always a good thing.

You can also reach out to national advocacy groups for more broad advice on best practices for ensuring your business is accessible. For example, numerous groups offer accessibility consulting services to for-profit companies, with just an email or online form needed to set up a distance-based appointment.

2. Don’t let accessibility end at the front door

A front door with a ramp and an automated opening mechanism is emblematic of welcoming disabled people. It's a good start, but it's just that — a start. Working to ensure your beauty business is physically accessible to all also means creating interior spaces that are wide and clear enough to comfortably accommodate people using adaptive mobility devices, whether they be canes, scooters, wheelchairs, or beyond.

Even with a well-planned layout in place, continued accessibility requires continued care. Changes to a space such as moving a desk further from a wall or running an extension cord across a walkway may seem innocuous to even the most well-intentioned staff, but they could mean new frustrations or even potential hazards for people who use mobility devices. It should also be noted that keeping these concerns at the front of your mind when planning and maintaining spaces will mean they'll be safer and easier to navigate for clients without disabilities.

3. Be sensitive to sensory issues

The next step after making sure folks of all kinds can physically access your beauty business should be to make sure that they can truly feel at ease while they're there. However you pamper your clients, keep in mind that what may feel like a lovely combination of sights, sounds, smells, and feelings to one person may be an overload for others who process sensations differently.

It's worth establishing what kind of an experience each client is looking for at the outset of an appointment: do they like to chat, or do they prefer comfortable quiet? Do they like the smell of the aromatherapy diffuser or would it be better to leave it turned off throughout the session? Clearly, your client wants hairstyling, a massage, or some other service you provide, but when your staff proactively takes note of what peripheral experiences each unique client does and doesn't enjoy, clients of all kinds are much more likely to leave with a positive impression. Once again, changes made in the name of greater accessibility for some end up benefiting all.

4. Your online presence counts, too

While the advent of the internet has been a great equalizer in many ways, it also reflects all the same unconscious biases and barriers that negatively impact people offline. For instance, is your website formatted to work well with screen readers? Do your social media posts with images include descriptive text so people who can't see the images can still be part of the conversation? These are just a few of the questions you need to keep in mind as you try to create a more accessible business from top to bottom.

Fortunately, getting into the habit of writing alt text for posts and giving your website a screen reader shakedown can be relatively quick and easy compared to making physical changes to your location. In fact, it's further proof that promoting accessibility in your beauty business is at least as much about a continued mindset of thoughtfulness and outreach as it is about laying down specific guidelines for any given situation.

By taking these steps to ensure your beauty business is actually accessible, you'll have made a great start toward allowing your business to truly serve all of your community. It's always a sound investment to make sure your market is as broad as possible, of course, but it's also just the right thing to do. When we can all come together to feel good, nobody gets left out.

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