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Just How Open Is Your Door?

You have heard the saying, “My door is always open.”  When I had my brick and mortar retail in downtown Rochester, Michigan, I had a front and back door. I believed in having the doors open. (weather permitting, of course) It was an open invitation to everyone that walked on the sidewalks to come in to my store. Regardless of who they were. I loved it – we had a lot of fun with the visitors who came in. Often, they became regulars. My business was an art boutique and studio. We represented local artists and offered classes throughout the day and weekends we had parties.

I also had a website and social media presence. I tweeted on Twitter and posted on Facebook about things that were going on at my place. My website showcased the artists and classes. I sent a once a month e-mail. That was back then.

The open-door policy I had is something I feel strongly about – even when I just had visitors who came in to browse or to chit chat. I had a dog, Phoebe, who is still with me. She was the star of the place. Many people came in just for her. The word got out about my place. All of sudden I was the place to hang out, check out, and to take classes. It was because of my open-door policy.

The other day I had someone ask me about ADA compliance. The question was, in a nondirected way, if the ADA says it is only applicable to companies who have 15 employees or more, why do I need to concern myself with web accessibility?

Yes, that is true statement – ADA compliance, Title I does state if your business has more than 15 employees or conducts business more than 20 hours a week, you must comply with ADA.

I write this from a business owner and marketing point of view. Not from a person who is deaf. Ok? From one business owner to another.

We’re in the business to make revenue and to earn profit. One of the ways that websites work is to generate leads from prospects, who ultimately turn into customers. Those customers provide your company revenue.  This statement is true if you are an online business or if you are a brick and mortar business.

If your product and or services is of value to defined persona which includes a targeted income range, demographic, zip code or country, and even gender – you are going to draw said individual that is going to have some sort of disability.

Statistically in 2017, the overall rate of people with non-institutionalized disabilities in the US population was 12.6% - out of 40 million people who have a disability. Let’s be clear – there are nearly 40 million people with a disability in the United States. Then they are classified as institutionalized and non-institutionalized.

Let’s break down the common types of disability who are out there making purchases online:

  • 13 million reported cognitive difficulties. (autism, dyslexic, mental illness, attention deficit disorder, and other)
  • 11 million hearing difficulty, (deaf or hard of hearing)
  • 7 million with vision difficulty (blind, color blind, legally blind, other visual impairments)
  • 20 million with mobility difficulty. (cerebral palsy, amputation, paraplegia, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and other )

I often try to point out to people who we can relate to that have some sort of disability who would be making purchases online –

  • High Functioning Autism – Think Dan Aykroyd or Tim Burton. Richard Branson has shared that he is dyslexic.
  • Famous actress, Marlee Matlin who is Deaf. So is actress Amy Ecklund, of Guiding Light, who received cochlear implant. Let’s not forget Rush Limbaugh, who experienced sudden deafness.
  • We have Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles and Andrea Bocelli who are Blind.
  • Finally, Stephen Hawking who passed away this year and Michael Fox for their mobility challenges.

Wouldn’t you want them to shop at your place of business? Then why not the others? They have the same rights to make the decision to conduct business with you.

The only place we can statistically inquire if a person has some sort of disability is on an employment application or if the U.S. Census conducts a survey. Other than that, we really do not know if said website visitor has a disability. It is not like Google or Facebook Pixel allows us to select such tracking capability to select if a web visitor has a disability.

You just have no way of knowing. Based on the statistics of the number of people who have “some form of disability” worldwide, we’re talking about one in five. Isn’t that enough? One in Five.

The only time a potential web visitor would bother to let you know that they have some sort of obstacle with your website is “if” and that is a big operative word, “if” they e-mail you to let you know. Some may call or even write.

However, most them will not let you know. They will just leave. Go somewhere else. That is money that your business has potentially lost as revenue. That was a potential customer that you may not acquire.

I do send an e-mail to those that I really want to get something from a business where I have faced barriers. My barriers are videos and podcasts that have no captions or transcripts.  Like most entrepreneurs, I believe in continuous learning or education. Most of my desire in education is to provide more value to my clients that I serve.  There are a lot of fantastic resources online – unfortunately – the ones I am interested in are inaccessible to me. It is the bane of my existence.

You are probably thinking – well, there are books. Yes, there are books, but online resources are faster assimilation of information than books. I do read books – I read about two or three a month. In between, I try to watch videos as well.

The ones I send an e-mail requesting for transcripts or captions, I get the usual response of, “Thank you for sharing. We’ll work on that.” Or no response at all.  As a result, I no longer frequent their website or bother to read their blogs.

Does that make good business sense to you? Or let me rephrase it in another way to you: how open is your door for business? Are you really in business for your customers – for all customers regardless where they come from, their gender, age, race, physical ability, national origin and so on?  How inclusive is your business? Do you really believe in equal access and rights for all, regardless of their background and abilities?

I cannot answer those questions for you. That is something that you, as a small business owner can only answer.



  • Bialik, Kristen, 7 Facts About Americans With Disabilities. Pew Research. July 27, 2017.
  • 2017 Disability Statistics Annual Report. The American Community Survey. The Institute on Disability. University of New Hampshire

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