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Wheelchair Accessibility for Business

  • Published: 2011-02-13 (Revised/Updated 2013-06-16) : Author: Randy McIntire
  • Synopsis: Making businesses and public areas accessible to people in wheelchairs and with otherwise limited mobility.

Quote: "Some staircases are far too high for ramps, but a vertical platform lift serves as an elevator."

Main Document

The American Disabilities Act (ADA) has set standards and guidelines for making businesses and public areas accessible to people in wheelchairs and with otherwise limited mobility. Each state handles the enforcement of these guidelines differently. But regardless of how strict or lax your state might be, making your place of business easily accessible to everyone will benefit both them and you.

With longer life expectancies and an increasing elderly population, America has a growing percentage of people who have mobility problems, ranging from mild to severe. More people use wheelchairs than ever before, and that can pose problems for them if there are no ramps, if hallways are too narrow and if there are no bathroom facilities that they can easily use.

Whether or not you have building code inspectors pushing you to make necessary changes, you should make those changes as soon as possible. Not only is it the right thing to do to avoid discriminating against those with mobility issues, but it can help your place of business succeed by being a place that's accessible to everyone.

Each customer or person who comes onto your property represents more than one potential sale or client. If word of mouth spreads that your business isn't set up for people in wheelchairs or those who have trouble climbing steps, that will cost you a great deal of business over time. The opposite holds true, too. When people know that they won't be faced with physical challenges at your business, they're more likely to come.

Making a business wheelchair accessible isn't always easy. The architecture of the building alone can cause serious problems. But a few small steps can be conquered fairly easily by building a wheelchair ramp that offers the same access. While portable ramps and folding ramps are great for people to use at home, businesses should invest in a permanent ramp that's secure, stable and convenient to use.

And it's far better to add the ramp in addition to stairs, rather than to cover the stairs with it as a home user might. Many people aren't comfortable walking on slopes, and that includes some people with mobility issues. Many people who use canes, for instance, would prefer a few steps to a slope that makes them feel unsteady. So a ramp in addition to stairs is a great solution for a very small set of steps.

For several stairs, a vertical platform lift is ideal. This allows someone in a wheelchair to be lifted and lowered easily. Some staircases are far too high for ramps, but a vertical platform lift serves as an elevator. Lifts can cost from about $5,000 and up, but they'll allow people in wheelchairs access to the building and the ability to get to all floors inside where you have lifts installed. That's good for your business.

The alternative is either limited access for people with disabilities, or expensive renovations that will cost many times the price of a lift. And while the lift can be installed very quickly, the renovations necessary to bring a business into compliance in other ways can take weeks or longer. So consider a vertical platform lift for your business to save time and money, to increase business and to respect all of your potential customers.

Randy McIntire is a technical writer specializing in mobility devices for seniors and the disabled. For more information about wheelchair ramps or vertical platform lifts, visit

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