At our March Business at Breakfast, we welcomed community leaders to discuss the importance of enhancing accessibility in the business landscape and ways this can be achieved at little or no cost. At a time when diversity and inclusion are paramount, ensuring that your business is accessible to everyone is not just a moral imperative but also a strategic advantage.

We heard from three presenters, each of whom offered a fresh perspective and concrete, actionable and practical methods and approaches that can be implemented easily and effectively to improve accessibility.

Jeremy Houle of Houle Healthcare Complex Rehab Centre joined us to talk about his mission to help people regain their mobility, independence and quality of life. He highlighted three areas where we can improve when it comes to accessibility:

  • Lack of Awareness – put yourself in the shoes of a person with mobility issues to understand how accessible your business is and where you can improve. Houle Healthcare will even lend you a mobility item, like a wheelchair or walker, to use in your business and find areas where you can improve accessibility!
  • Lack of Expertise – Get involved with people in the community who have experience with mobility issues and train staff members and volunteers with proper communication techniques and understanding various mobility aids and equipment.
  • Budget Constraints – It is possible to make accessibility changes without spending a lot, for example, introducing the option to meet a customer at their vehicle with their order.

To contact them visit: Houle Healthcare | Massage Therapy, Physiotherapy, Wheelchairs, Walkers in Carleton Place and Ottawa

Erin Patchell and Sarah Allison of Positivist Group introduced a new initiative they are working on called Trained to Help which focuses on educating and empowering retail businesses and their teams to better serve those with disabilities and their caregivers.

In August 2024 they are launching a pilot program with brick and mortar customer-focused businesses which will provide training and business verification. Participating businesses will become community leaders, attracting a more diverse customer base, cultivating an inclusive workplace culture, and gaining recognition as a disability-friendly business.

For more on what certified businesses receive visit: Trained To Help

We also heard from Barb Sheldrick of Age-Friendly North Lanark, a not-for-profit organization made up of older adults working to create warm and caring communities for every age, stage and ability. One of their priorities is encouraging Age-Friendly Businesses where people of all ages and abilities can comfortably shop for goods and services.

Sheldrick introduced low/no-cost ways that businesses can be more accessible, such as, rest areas near entrances, clean non-slip floors, handrails where needed, and ads depicting older adults and people with disabilities positively.

Prioritizing accessibility in the workplace not only benefits individuals with disabilities and seniors but also contributes to the success and innovation of the business. In this way, ensuring your business is accessible to all is not just a moral imperative but also a strategic advantage.