Find Disability-Friendly Businesses on the "BluePath"
Most restaurant reviews don't include comments on accessibility, leaving potential customers with mobility challenges to guess whether they can get in and around a restaurant to enjoy the food. The same is true for other retail establishments, hotels, and businesses, especially when one is traveling or in unfamiliar territory. At the same time, business owners may incorrectly assume their building is completely accessible, when relatively minor changes might vastly improve the ease with which any customer could access their services. A new resource by the University of Washington's Northwest ADA Center should bring business owners and customers with disabilities together.
A Resource for Seniors and People with Disabilities
Wide shopping aisles at Marlene's Market & Deli, a BluePath Member in Federal Way, make it easier for customers using mobility devices.
A lowered counter and friendly staff welcomes guests to the Courtyard Marriott and makes it easier to check in from a seated position.
This resource is BluePath, a website that lists the accessibility features of some local businesses throughout the King County area. The goal of BluePath is to provide detailed information about a restaurant, store or hotel so a customer can be informed about the types of access before arriving at the business. BluePath informs people so they "know before they go" that they will find a reliable, usable "Blue" Path!
In case you're wondering, Blue represents the familiar signs with the international symbol of accessibility. However, BluePath has a trendy logo (above) that can be displayed in the window of member businesses. When you see the BluePath logo, you know the business is willing to provide you with a welcoming, user-friendly experience.
BluePath allows customers, called PathFinders, to rate accessible features and to write reviews about their experience. Business owners then have the opportunity to respond to comments, allowing discussion and education surrounding access.
A Resource for Businesses
BluePath is also designed to provide technical assistance to businesses to help them get on the BluePath and become aware and proactive about access and customer service for people with mobility and sensory challenges. Sara Woody is Northwest ADA Center's BluePath Coordinator. Explains Woody, "Even though businesses have been required since 1990 to be accessible, there are a lot of ways that we can inform businesses about things they don't realize they don't know."
During this start-up period, BluePath is trying to assist businesses with their accessibility surveys. Otherwise, a business can go to the BluePath website and print out a self-assessment checklist to review the various elements of their facility, including parking, entrance, interior routes, and restrooms. The checklist helps identify any issues or barriers.
In Woodinville, WA, Nathan Wetmore, General Manager of Redhook Brewery, took action on several BluePath recommendations. He painted an extra accessible parking space closer to the entrance, got a quote for automatic doors, and bought asphalt to smooth out the bottom of the curb ramp leading to the entrance.
In Eugene, OR, BluePath assessed several St. Vincent de Paul locations and made a number of recommendations. As a result, Charlie Harvey, Associate Executive Director, widened aisles at his stores, lowered mirrors to allow people using wheelchairs to see better, and changed door handles from knobs to levers.
Help Build a BluePath of Accessibility
BluePath is growing in the Pacific Northwest with an initial focus on the regions surrounding Seattle, WA; Eugene, OR; and Anchorage, AK. With a national network of ADA Information Centers, BluePath has the potential support to become a nationwide resource.
BluePath needs YOU to help build the directory! You can register as a PathFinder at www.blue-path.com and suggest a business for membership. This year is the 20th anniversary of the ADA—the time is right to help turn King County Blue!