Disabilities & Store Design


October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and a good time to review how compliant is your office to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

Nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population has some sort of disability that requires accommodations in retail locations. Add to that the fact that more than 70 million Americans will be over age 65 by 2030, and you have two very good reasons to follow the guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The path a person with a disability takes to move through your business…must be at least 3’ wide

Here are six things you need to know about store design and layout in order to meet the needs of disabled consumers. Those considerations involve everything from your lighting to your entryway. Some are optional. Most are not.


The most recent standards were established in 2010. Since 2012, all businesses have been required to comply with those standards, as opposed to earlier ones that were set in 1991.


You may have a no-pet policy, but be sure you have and communicate to staff a policy about service animals. While you may have already considered the needs of low vision patients, what about people whose service dogs don’t fall under ADA requirements, like emotional, comfort, and therapy dogs?


Chances are you can already accommodate wheelchairs, but more disabled people are using larger power-driven “mobility devices” like Segways® and small golf cars. Any device categorized as a wheelchair must be permitted. However, it’s up to your business to determine if you can accommodate the larger, faster-moving ones.

The ADA suggests you put your policy in writing and make it available to the public.


Some things like lighting are as much common sense as they are compliance-related. Lighting is one such area. While strobe-like lights can cause seizures in people sensitive to them, super bright lights can overwhelm individuals with autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. Both can also cause migraines and headaches in photosensitive patients.


The ADA is pretty specific here. “The path a person with a disability takes to move through your business…must be at least 3’ wide and not be blocked…. Similarly, accessible counters at the register must not be cluttered with merchandise or supplies.”


If your front entrance cannot be made accessible for individuals with disabilities, then the ADA requires that “an alternate accessible entrance can be used. A sign should be posted at any inaccessible entrance directing individuals to the accessible one. This entrance must be open whenever other public entrances are open.”

These are just a few of the myriad ADA regulations and recommendations. Have you established and posted policies at your practice? Share and join the conversation here on Facebook. And, for more info, including staff education on your practice’s policies, go to  the ADA or visit the Department Labor