Support for business

Welcoming customers with disability to your business

Tips to becoming more welcoming and accessible.

Welcoming and accessible businesses attract the most customers
Welcoming and accessible businesses attract the most customers

Each year, thousands of people come to Sydney looking for accessible, welcoming places to shop, stay, dine and explore.

Businesses that are inclusive will be the most appealing and desirable for them.

We want to make Sydney inclusive and accessible for everyone - all year round.

Our Inclusion (Disability) Advisory Panel, offers a few simple tips to make your business welcoming and accessible:

1. Remember communication comes in many forms

  • You don’t need to be an expert to communicate clearly.
  • Focus on a person’s need, not their disability.
  • Be supportive and patient.
  • Make sure the customer understands what’s being said. If you’re unsure, simply ask them or repeat yourself.
  • Speak directly to the customer, even when they are accompanied by an interpreter or companion or carer.

2. Be aware that many disabilities are invisible

  • 20 per cent of Australians live with disability and as many as 90 per cent of them have conditions that are not immediately obvious including mental health issues.
  • Examples might include a hearing deaf person - or someone who is hard of hearing, with low vision, on the autism spectrum, with multiple sclerosis or with an intellectual disability.
  • Treat everyone equally and respectfully, you never know what type of disability someone may be experiencing.

3. Respect wheelchairs and service animals such as guide dogs

  • It’s best to speak at eye level to customers in a wheelchair.
  • Don’t push/guide wheelchairs unless you’re asked to. Never lean on or hang things on a wheelchair.
  • If your counter isn’t low enough to be reached easily, walk around it and serve the customer face to face. Offer a stable surface to write on, if required.
  • Guide dogs can legally travel on buses, trains, ferries and in taxis. They’re also allowed in public places like libraries, community centres, recreation centres, restaurants and hotels.
  • Don’t distract a guide dog or assistance animal by patting it or giving it food.

4. Don’t assume anything

  • Try not to assume what a person can or can’t do.
  • Always respect a person’s dignity, individuality and desire for independence. Try not to assist without asking first.
  • When in doubt, ask the person how you can best help them.

5. Include accessibility and staff training in your business plan

  • 20 per cent of Australians live with disability
  • Providing disability awareness training to your staff will make your business a more inclusive and welcoming place.
  • Inclusive businesses expand their customer reach, making it easier for people with disability to participate and contribute to the local economy.
  • Visit the Welcoming customers with disability guide to upskill staff.

Published 24 September 2018, updated 29 February 2024