As the hospitality and retail sector begin to open, please take steps to ensure your service is accessible and safe for people who are blind or vision impaired. The increased use of shared spaces for outdoor dining, social distancing and health and safety protocols, have changed the physical and social landscape for people living with sight loss. The below information acts as a guide to help ensure your business is accessible, inclusive and safe and protects the right of everyone in Ireland to have the freedom to move independently and safely.
Outdoor Dining & Shared Space:
- Street furniture such as chairs, tables, rubbish bins, merchandising, Covid sanitization stations, planters and sandwich boards can act as a block and potential hazard for people who are blind or vision impaired. It is important to consider where furniture is positioned and how it is made apparent to people living with sight loss. Street furniture shall not reduce the minimum unobstructed width of the route to less than 1800mm, although a width of 2000mm is preferable in high pedestrian traffic areas and to accommodate a variety of different mobility aids and passing pedestrians.
- Café tables and chairs etc. shall be contained, to ensure that moveable furniture does not spread across clear pedestrian routes causing an obstruction. A barrier or guardrail makes it easier for persons with vision impairments to pass a group of tables and chairs without collisions. Street furniture should contrast visually with the background against which it will be viewed and it should not be highly reflective.
- It is important to ensure the footpath does not become overcluttered with street furniture resulting in people who are blind or vision impaired having to go onto the road to navigate past. This would increase their danger levels as they may be unable to see cyclists, e-scooter users or other vehicles.
- Serviced areas and accessible routes to key facilities such as counter areas and toilets should be clearly identifiable with legible signage.
- Sufficient lighting shall be provided at tables and service points to allow users to read menus, carry out payments, view their meal comfortably and to enable lip reading and use of sign language.
Providing information to your customers is always essential, but even more so as business premises layouts change to comply with different Covid regulations. Some blind or vision impaired people will find it helpful to have information on your new layouts, policies, or procedures before they arrive.
Many businesses choose to provide this information online in anticipation of reopening. While this information may also be displayed on floor markings or posters, it’s important to remember that some people cannot read floor markings clearly. When designing a poster for your establishment, ensure the font is a minimum of size 14, is not printed in italic format and uses clear colour contrasts to make it distinguishable.
Please be mindful that some blind or vision impaired people have difficulty in maintaining social distancing due to their sight loss. If you think a customer might require assistance, a simple introductory line such as “Is there anything I can help you with?” can gently break the ice. Not all blind or vision impaired people carry a cane or use a guide dog.
Any customer facing staff should be mindful of obstacles when showing customers with sight loss to their table. While outdoor dining is in operation, things such as sunlight or glare can affect the ability of person with sight loss to navigate safely in an unfamiliar setting.
During the pandemic, menu use became an issue for hygiene reasons in many establishments. If your premises uses a wall-mounted menu, please be aware this may be difficult for blind or vision impaired customers to read. One alternative to this is making the menu available in an accessible format on your website.
Some establishments are also allowing customers to place and pay for their orders using an app, in order to keep contact to a minimum. Any business offering this service should ensure their apps and websites are accessible and user friendly.
Government authorities are responsible for enforcing and monitoring compliance of the recommendations in this document and that the standards used include BS8300-1:2018 Design of an accessible and inclusive built environment Part 1: External Environment and EN17210:2020 Accessibility and Usability of the built environment – Functional requirements.
For further information business owners can get in contact with NCBI’s Access Office.