By Jim Jirous, Willy Street Co-op facilities director
In March 2022, as a part of Willy Street Co-op’s Ownership & Community Engagement Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work, and our partnership with Step Up: Equity Matters, we were introduced to Downtown Madison, Inc.’s Beyond Compliance Taskforce.
This gave us the opportunity to learn about the Access to Independence Accessibility Services Program. This program provides consultation and technical assistance to help Madison businesses ensure accessibility and inclusiveness for people with disabilities. This introduction coincided with our interest in determining how to make our stores more accessible.
Members from Access to Independence toured all three stores in October 2022 and found several items of noncompliance and some items that were beyond compliance issues that they recommended we consider changing.
Noncompliance issues found and were corrected
- In the parking lots, some of the signs at the accessible parking stalls were installed below the ADA required height of 56 inches. These have been raised to the correct height.
- In the restrooms, the sharps disposal receptacles were installed above the ADA required height. These were lowered to 48 inches at East and West and were reinstalled at the North store during the restroom renovation project.
- Also in the restrooms, the coat hooks were installed above the ADA required height. We added coat hooks at Willy East and West between 15-48 inches off the floor and installed two sets of hooks in each restroom at North during the renovation project, one above 48 inches and one at or below 48 inches.
- The restroom automatic openers, on the doors equipped with them, were found to return to the closed position outside of the ADA allowable time requirements. The automatic openers at all three stores were adjusted to function as required. The three new restroom doors at Willy North that do not have an automatic opener were confirmed to open within the allowable force requirements after installation during the renovation project.
Some recommendations that were not related to compliance
In the parking lot at East, the wording on one of the signs for an accessible parking stall was recommended to be changed to use the currently accepted “people with disabilities” or “disabled people” rather than “differently-abled” that was used 10 years ago. This has been corrected.
It was found at all three stores that the shelved items that are higher than 48 inches above the ground aren’t accessible to shoppers who can’t reach that high. It was recommended that we merchandise the shelved item vertically instead of horizontally so that they would be in reach for all shoppers. This is something we will be looking into and it is something that will require a lot of thought and troubleshooting to execute.
The openings between the checkout counters at West and East were found to be not wide enough to be accessible for staff who are wheelchair users. The team recommended that we make sure at least one checkout counter has an opening to the workspace that is at least 32 inches wide. This is something we will be working on in the coming months at both sites.
This article was edited for space. The original article appeared in the August Willy Street Reader. Click here to read the full version it online. Reprinted with permission.
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