Building codes in the U.S. have pretty stringent accessibility requirements. Think of the power behind the requirement of wheelchair accessibility when you consider this statistic:
- The US census estimates that in 2002 in the USA there were 2.7 million wheelchair users 15 years and older and 121,000 wheelchair users under 15 years of age (based on their estimate of 0.2% of 60.6 million children under 15 years of age.). This is a total of over 2.8 million U.S. wheelchair users. From a population of 300 million this is just under 1%.
So, to accommodate just under 1% of the population, look at the expense of building to the hallway, doorway, elevator, handicap parking, park trails, and curb access requirements of ADA rules.
And don’t get me wrong – as a business owner, I deliberately space my fixtures to accommodate wheelchair (and stroller) movement in my store. However, to have blanket requirements in national building codes…maybe that wasn’t such a good idea.
I don’t live in a wheelchair. I’m not deaf, blind, lame. I suppose if I did have a handicap, that could change my sense of fairness; but probably not. In my store, I could count, probably on ten fingers, how many times in two years a customer in a wheel chair has come into my store and gone all the way around the store (in fact, I’m willing to bet a doughnut the first wheelchair bound customer was testing my ADA compliance). From a profitability stance, the financial benefit of accommodating that 1% would not likely pencil out. So, at what point does the benefit to that 1% outweigh my benefit to the community (when the money I would have spent on the infrequent wheelchair-bound customer is instead spent on employing someone to provide service to the rest of my customers) .
Oddly enough, it’s when I go hiking that I feel the value to the ADA rules are worthwhile. I advocate everyone being able to get in to the natural environment. Still, I’m of the mind that a business owner that wants to make her building ADA compliant she should have that right. On the other hand, if a retailer or service provider doesn’t want to allocate the capital for that <1%, they shouldn’t have to. If it’s government (i.e.publicly) owned, then my sense of the appropriate standards of access change. Government property should have100% accessibility – including other handicaps such as blindness deafness.