Guest Article by Michelle Bolger, Employment Law Consultant at ESA Consultants
You want more business and loyal customers, but are you making it easy and welcoming for those with a disability to come to you? To put it another way, would you neglect to cater for 18% of your market or, in real figures 700,000 customers? I’m going to guess you wouldn’t. Yet, by not acknowledging and catering your salon & spa services for clients with a disability, that is exactly what you are doing. So what now?
Definition & Legal Facts
The term disability covers a broad range of issues from physical restrictions, mental restrictions, anxiety, depression, and chronic illness. Couple that with the fact that each will handle their disability differently, and you have a very wide definition.
In Ireland, businesses are guided by the Disability Act 2005, which states that ‘services and goods provided to the public have to be accessible to people with disabilities unless that would not be practicable, would cause unreasonable delay or would be too expensive.’
That seems to give businesses latitude when considering putting in support structures for customers with a disability, but what are we talking about here?
6 Questions To Ask Yourself:
- Can someone with sight difficulties get into your building safely?
Are there steps? Is it well lit?
- Can someone with speech difficulties be assured they will be dealt with in a patient and respectful manner?
- Can someone who suffers from anxiety be accommodated by having a longer time allocated to their session so that you can go slowly and keep their anxiety at bay?
Maybe even have some lavender oil burning to help things along?
- Have you ever spoken to your staff about how to engage with a customer who needs a little more time?
Are they comfortable to do so? Do any of them have experience with people with disabilities from the family and friends that might make them better able to give someone with an issue a more welcoming experience?
- Do you have a policy for welcoming those with a disability?
If not, perhaps consider including one in your SOP Manual.
- Would it really be too expensive to meet someone at their taxi or bus stop and bring them into the salon or walk them back out?
Making Your Salon & Spa Services Accessible To Everyone
I was recently outside L&A Hair in Northwood Santry and a gem of an employee was walking an elderly customer with walking difficulties out to her husband who was waiting in his car. She took a moment to talk to him as well, wished them a lovely day and promised to book the lady in again for her next appointment. Everyone who saw this smiled, everyone looked to see where she worked, and you can bet a mortgage payment on the fact that she now has a very loyal customer.
According to the National Disability Authority here are some good general guidelines to help your staff accommodate customers with disabilities:
- Treat a person with a disability as considerately as you would like to be treated.
- When giving out salon & spa services to a person with a disability, never patronise them.
Treat them as you treat other adults and address them as you address other adults.
- If another person accompanies someone with a disability, look and speak directly to the person with the disability.
- Find out—as early as possible—how the person prefers to communicate.
If necessary, ask the person’s family member, carer, or support person to explain how this individual prefers to communicate. Let them explain the person’s communication aids or devices. Brief relevant colleagues so that the client doesn’t have to go through it all repeatedly.
- Do not assume that a person with a disability needs help.
Ask the person whether they would like help, and then ask how you could help. Do not be offended if your help is not accepted: many people do not need any help.
- Ask the questions that you need to ask.
Do not assume that a person with a disability is more fragile than others.
For More Information
Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of legislation surrounding dealing with customers with disabilities. From the Disability Act, we know that there are a lot of ways to argue getting around any obligation. But realistically, walking someone to their car won’t make you responsible for them unless you do something endangering.
If you would like to explore ways you can provide access to your salon & spa services for clients with disabilities, the National Disability Authority have a fantastic website with realistic resources that you can start using straight away.
Thanks for reading!