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How accessible is your business to disabled customers?

How accessible is your business to disabled customers?

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Filed on 01. Oct, 2019 in Contents, New Business

AbiliTrek can help you answer that question.

AbiliTrek is a search and review platform that connects the disability community with businesses to promote equal opportunity and start conversations about accessibility.

It allows for those in the disability community to rate and review the accessibility of any business and search for establishments tailored to their specific needs. Anywhere that you can search on Yelp.com you can also access the AbiliTrek platform.

After experiencing many barriers while traveling with Cerebal Palsy, founder and CEO Daman Wandke started AbiliTrek in 2016. Originally, AbiliTrek started as a hotel booking service for travelers with a disability.

Daman Wandke

Daman Wandke

In 2018 AbiliTrek pivoted to a search and review platform which includes more in-depth accessibility knowledge of a variety of businesses beyond hotels.

In July of 2019, AbiliTrek launched its Accessibility Certification Program in Bellingham. The ACP includes onsite accessibility consulting with the AbiliTrek crew and will give your location a yes or no pass rating based on four main criteria.

Is your entrance accessible? Is your service/seating accessible? If the facility has a public bathroom, is it accessible? Is closed captioning provided on the TV?

The ACP is making businesses think about disabilities, which if you don’t have to deal with one daily you aren’t going to know unless you start asking questions, said director of accessibility and communications, Kyann Flint.

Flint has experienced locations in Bellingham that were not wheelchair accessible and is passionate about advocating for the disability community to encourage positive change.

AbiliTrek helps fill the gaps left behind by the outdated Americans with Disabilities Act, Flint said. So far, the ACP has certified eight businesses in Bellingham.

“We at AbiliTrek are filling in those gaps from more of an education approach by teaching people the importance of accessibility and disability educate,” Flint said.

Some of the Bellingham organizations that have passed the ACP and been given the signature window decal so far include Fat Pie, Black Drop, Aslan and Third Planet.

Third Planet was the first business to become AbiliTrek certified, said store manager, Erika Millage. She described the certification process as quick, easy and educational.

“There are a lot of people who won’t go out or frequent places that their disabled friends cant go and that was something that I hadn’t really considered as an able-bodied person.” Millage said. “They didn’t have a list of places where their needs could be met easily and I think that’s whee AbiliTrek really comes in and solves that problem.”

Currently, the disability community is a $490 billion market in the United States, Flint said. A majority of the baby boomer generation is either approaching 65 or older, an age when studies have shown you become six times more likely to acquire a disability. This same population also holds roughly 70 percent of the disposable wealth in the United States.

Therefore, the market needs to be accessible to accommodate people who have a large amount of wealth in addition to everyone with a disability, Flint said.

“I personally will let others know that I don’t have equal access to a location and use my dollar power to show that the location needs to be accessible,” Flint said.

Physical accessibility is not the only form of accessibility that AbilTrek takes into consideration. In addition to the ACP, AbiliTrek offers website and app testing.

A developer will go through the digital storefront and address areas that need improvement. They will work with the business to address things such as assistive technology, screen readers, and magnification tools.

The ACP is a $100 annual fee and covers an accessibility evaluation. If your business passes you will receive a decal for your storefront and a positive PR on the AbiliTrek website. If your organization is a member of the Chamber or Sustainable Connections you will receive the ACP at a discounted rate of $75.

Tax credits are available for small businesses with 30 employees or less or that make $1 million or less a year. Tax deductions are available for any business that spends $250 or more making physical accessibility changes to their business.

“There are so many components to disability awareness,” Flint said. “We like to be that voice for the disability community and we hope that we are doing the best job that we can by talking about a wide array of disabilities even though we only have our own experiences.”

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